Boys & Girls Clubs of America
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Boys & Girls Clubs of America

A Tigray boy in Ethiopia
Newborn baby boy

A boy is a young male human, usually a child or adolescent. When he becomes an adult, he is described as a man. The term can be joined with a variety of other words to form compound words.


The word "boy" comes from Middle English boi, boye ("boy, servant"), related to other Germanic words for boy, namely East Frisian boi ("boy, young man") and West Frisian boai ("boy"). Although the exact etymology is obscure, the English and Frisian forms probably derive from an earlier Anglo-Frisian *b?-ja ("little brother"), a diminutive of the Germanic root *b?- ("brother, male relation"), from Proto-Indo-European *bh?-, *bh?t- ("father, brother"). The root is also found in Norwegian dialectal boa ("brother"), and, through a reduplicated variant *b?-b?-, in Old Norse bófi, Dutch boef "(criminal) knave, rogue", German Bube ("knave, rogue, boy"). Furthermore, the word may be related to B?ia, an Anglo-Saxon personal name.[1]

African boy transporting fodder
An African boy transporting fodder

Specific uses


Historically, in the United States and South Africa, "boy" was not only a "neutral" term for domestics but also a disparaging term towards men of color; the term implied a subservient status.[2][3][4][5] The use of the term "boy" to describe men of color has not always been used as an insult, however; for example, Thomas Branch, an early African-American Seventh-day Adventist missionary to Nyassaland (Malawi) referred to the native students as boys:

There is one way by which we judge many of our present boys to be quite different from some of those who were here long ago: those that are married have their wives here with them, and build their own houses, and all are busy making their gardens. I have told all the boys that if they wished to stay here and learn, those that had wives must bring them. This is having a good effect on them. They stay longer, and are more attentive to their work and their studies.[6]

Multiple politicians - including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Kentucky Congressman Geoff Davis - have been criticized publicly for referring to a black man as "boy."[4][5]

During an event promoting the 2017 boxing bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor, the latter told the former to "dance for me, boy."[7] The remarks led several boxers - including Mayweather and Andre Ward - as well as multiple commentators to accuse McGregor of racism.[7][8][9][10]

Intersex and transgender issues

Some boys defy traditional gender expectations. Gender-expansive[a] and transgender boys can face bullying and pressure to conform to traditional expectations.[11][page needed] Some intersex children and some transgender children who were assigned female at birth may self-identify as boys.[12]

Boys in art and music

Many mythological boys have frequently been represented in various arts, e.g. Venus' often mischievous son Cupid, himself a young god of love which he 'inflicts' on humans by shooting his arrows; in some style periods even multiplied as naked little boys called putti.[]

In religious art, generally adults preponderate (except as extras), with certain marked, stereotypical exceptions such as the infant Jesus or angels which may even act as 'Christianized' putti.[]

Some music has been written for boys' treble voices, especially in situations where female participation was considered inappropriate.[]

See also


  1. ^ The source[11] defines gender-expansive as: "Children who do not conform to their culture's expectations for boys or girls. Being transgender is one way of being gender-expansive, but not all gender-expansive children are transgender."
  1. ^ See:
    • Etymology Online - entry for "boy"
    • H. H. Malincrodt, Latijn-Nederlands woordenboek (Latin-Dutch dictionary)
    • Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary
    • Buck, Carl Darling (1988) [1949]. A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-07937-0.
  2. ^ Corriher, Billy (2011-12-21). "Court finally says 'boy' comments are racist". Harvard Law and Policy Review. Retrieved .
  3. ^ Ifill, Sherrilyn A. (24 August 2010). "When 'Boy' Is Not a Racist Remark". The Root. Retrieved .
  4. ^ a b Martin, Roland S. (15 April 2008). "Understanding why you don't call a black man a boy". Retrieved .
  5. ^ a b "Racist Or Not? Gov. Chris Christie Calls Black Man 'Boy' In Town Hall [VIDEO]". News One. 2013-03-16. Retrieved .
  6. ^ Branch, Thomas H. (January 3, 1907). "British Central Africa" (PDF). Review and Herald. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. 84 (01): 18. Retrieved 2015.
  7. ^ a b Press Association (2017-07-15). "Floyd Mayweather accuses Conor McGregor of racism and uses homophobic slur". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved .
  8. ^ Chiari, Mike (13 July 2017). "Andre Ward Doesn't Like Conor McGregor Calling Floyd Mayweather 'Boy'". Bleacher Report. Retrieved .
  9. ^ Callahan, Yesha (13 June 2017). "Yes, Conor McGregor Is a Racist". The Root. Retrieved .
  10. ^ Bell, Gabriel (14 July 2017). "Conor McGregor denies being a racist with racist statement". Salon. Retrieved .
  11. ^ a b Murchison, M.P.H., Gabe; et al. (September 2016). "Supporting & Caring for Transgender Children" (PDF).
  12. ^ "Gender Identity: 5 Questions with Walter Bockting". Columbia University Irving Medical Center. 2019-03-27. Retrieved .

Further reading

  • Allen, Edward A. (1982). "Public School Elites in Early-Victorian England: The Boys at Harrow and Merchant Taylors' Schools from 1825 to 1850". Journal of British Studies. 21 (2): 87-117. doi:10.1086/385791.
  • Baggerman, Arianne; Dekker, Rudolf (2009). Child of the Enlightenment: Revolutionary Europe Reflected in a Boyhood Diary.
  • Clement, Priscilla Ferguson; Reinier, Jacqueline S., eds. (2001). Boyhood in America: an encyclopedia. 2 vol ABC-CLIO.description
  • Giese, Rachel (2018). Boys: What it Means to Become a Man. Seal Press.
  • Hunt, Peter (2004). International companion encyclopedia of children's literature. Routledge.
  • Illick, Joseph E. (2005). American childhoods.
  • Killian, Caitlin (2007). "Covered girls and savage boys: Representations of Muslim youth in France". Journal of Social and Ecological Boundaries. 3 (1): 69-90.
  • Kugler, Adriana D.; Kumar, Santosh (2017). "Preference for boys, family size, and educational attainment in India". Demography. 54 (3): 835-859. doi:10.1007/s13524-017-0575-1.
  • Liu, Fengshu (2006). "Boys as only-children and girls as only-children--parental gendered expectations of the only-child in the nuclear Chinese family in present-day China". Gender and Education. 18 (5): 491-505. doi:10.1080/09540250600881626.
  • Macleod, David I. (1982). "Act Your Age: Boyhood, Adolescence and the Rise of the Boy Scouts of America". Journal of Social History. 16 (2): 3-20. doi:10.1353/jsh/16.2.3.
  • Mintz, Steven (2004). Huck's raft: A history of American childhood. Harvard UP.
  • Naka, Kansuke (2015). The Silver Spoon: Memoir of a Boyhood in Japan. Stone Bridge Press.
  • Plafker, Ted (2002). "Sex selection in China sees 117 boys born for every 100 girls". The BMJ. 324 (7348): 1233. doi:10.1136/bmj.324.7348.1233/a. PMC 1123206.
  • Powell, Sacha; Smith, Kate, eds. (2017). An introduction to early childhood studies. Sage. from a variety of disciplines and international perspectives.
  • Rose, Clare (2016). Making, selling and wearing boys' clothes in late-Victorian England. Routledge.
  • Theriault, Daniel (2018). "A Socio-Historical Overview of Black Youth Development in the United States for Leisure Studies". International Journal of the Sociology of Leisure. 1 (2): 197-213. doi:10.1007/s41978-018-0013-y.
  • Wainman, Ruth (2017). "'Engineering for Boys': Meccano and the Shaping of a Technical Vision of Boyhood in Twentieth-Century Britain". Cultural and Social History. 14 (3): 381-396.
  • Wolff, Larry (1996). "The Boys Are Pickpockets, and the Girl Is a Prostitute": Gender and Juvenile Criminality in Early Victorian England from Oliver Twist to London Labour". New Literary History. 27 (2): 227-249. JSTOR 20057349.

External links

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