bul·ly 1 (blē)
n. pl. bul·lies
1. A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller, weaker, less popular, or more vulnerable people.
2. A hired ruffian; a thug.
3. A pimp.
4. Archaic A fine person.
5. Archaic A sweetheart.
v. bul·lied, bul·ly·ing, bul·lies
1. To hurt or intimidate (someone) in the manner of a bully. See Synonyms at intimidate.
2. To make (one's way) aggressively.
1. To behave like a bully.
2. To force one's way aggressively or by intimidation: “They bully into line at the gas pump” (Martin Gottfried).
Excellent; splendid: did a bully job of persuading the members.
Used to express approval: Bully for you!
[Possibly from Middle Dutch boele, sweetheart, probably alteration of broeder, brother; see bhrāter- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.