You might still have terrifying dreams about the bully who harassed you on the playground in second grade. A bully is someone who intimidates people, usually those who are weaker or smaller.

The classic example of a bully is a mean kid in a schoolyard who hassles or beats up younger students. While a child or a teenager can be a bully, so is anyone who uses power or strength to scare or harm other people. The word bully has gone through a mysterious evolution, from the 1530s when it meant “sweetheart,” through the 17th century’s meanings of “fine fellow,” then “blusterer,” and finally “harasser of the weak.”

Definitions of bully
  1. verb

    discourage or frighten with threats or a domineering manner; intimidate

    browbeat, swagger
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    type of:

    blarney, cajole, coax, inveigle, palaver, sweet-talk, wheedle

    influence or urge by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering

  2. verb

    be bossy towards

    “Her big brother always
    bullied her when she was young”
    ballyrag, boss around, browbeat, bullyrag, hector, push around, strong-arm
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    domineer, tyrannise, tyrannize

    rule or exercise power over (somebody) in a cruel and autocratic manner
    type of:


    make timid or fearful

  3. noun

    a cruel and brutal fellow

    hooligan, roughneck, rowdy, ruffian, tough, yob, yobbo, yobo
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    a swaggering tough; usually one acting as an agent of a political faction
    muscle, muscleman

    a bully employed as a thug or bodyguard

    a young person who belongs to a British or American group that shave their heads and gather at rock concerts or engage in white supremacist demonstrations
    plug-ugly, tough guy

    someone who bullies weaker people
    Ted, Teddy boy

    a tough youth of 1950’s and 1960’s wearing Edwardian style clothes
    type of:

    aggressor, assailant, assaulter, attacker

    someone who attacks

  4. noun

    a hired thug

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    type of:

    goon, hood, hoodlum, punk, strong-armer, thug, tough, toughie

    an aggressive and violent young criminal

  5. adjective

    very good

    “he did a
    bully job”
    bang-up, corking, cracking, dandy, great, groovy, keen, neat, nifty, not bad, peachy, slap-up, smashing, swell


    having desirable or positive qualities especially those suitable for a thing specified

Word Family