Origin of the Word 'Bully'

Cow lovers will be pleased to know that the words 'bully' and 'bullying' have nothing to do with bovines - bulls or cows. No, 'bully' is a word that evolved over time and started as something all together difference, as a lot of words do.

Sweatheart... Brother... Ruffian

The word "bully" was first used in the 1530s meaning "sweetheart", applied to either sex, from the Dutch boel "lover, brother", probably diminutive of Middle High German buole "brother", of uncertain origin (compare with the German buhle "lover").

The meaning deteriorated through the 17th century through "fine fellow", "blusterer", to "harasser of the weak". This may have been as a connecting sense between "lover" and "ruffian" as in "protector of a prostitute", which was one sense of "bully" (though not specifically attested until 1706).

The verb "to bully" is first attested in 1710. (From en.wikipedia.org)

So as you can see the word bully has nothing to do with bulls (the adult male bovine), which is all good news. 

Further Reading

If you are interested in some heavy reading on the subject of bullying prevalence in Australia try this document from the Edith Cowan University of WA: The Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study Executive Summary.

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