build (v.) Look up build at
late Old English byldan "construct a house," verb form of bold "house," from Proto-Germanic *buthlam (cognates: Old Saxon bodl, Old Frisian bodel "building, house"), from PIE *bhu- "to dwell," from root *bheue- "to be, exist, grow" (see be). Rare in Old English; in Middle English it won out over more common Old English timbran (see timber). Modern spelling is unexplained. Figurative use from mid-15c. Of physical things other than buildings from late 16c. Related: Builded (archaic); built; building.
In the United States, this verb is used with much more latitude than in England. There, as Fennimore Cooper puts it, everything is BUILT. The priest BUILDS up a flock; the speculator a fortune; the lawyer a reputation; the landlord a town; and the tailor, as in England, BUILDS up a suit of clothes. A fire is BUILT instead of made, and the expression is even extended to individuals, to be BUILT being used with the meaning of formed. [Farmer, "Slang and Its Analogues," 1890]
build (n.) Look up build at
"style of construction," 1660s, from build (v.). Earlier in this sense was built (1610s). Meaning "physical construction and fitness of a person" attested by 1981. Earliest sense, now obsolete, was "a building" (early 14c.).
build-up (n.) Look up build-up at
also buildup, 1927, "accumulation of positive publicity," from build (v.) + up (adv.). Of any accumulation (but especially military) from 1943.
builder (n.) Look up builder at
late 13c., agent noun from build (v.).
building (n.) Look up building at
"a structure," c. 1300, verbal noun from build (v.).
built (adj.) Look up built at
1560s, "constructed, erected," past participle adjective from build (v.). Meaning "physically well-developed" is by 1940s (well-built in reference to a woman is from 1871); Built-in (adj.) is from 1898.
bulb (n.) Look up bulb at
1560s, "an onion," from Middle French bulbe (15c.), from Latin bulbus "bulb, bulbous root, onion," from Greek bolbos "plant with round swelling on underground stem." Expanded by 1800 to "swelling in a glass tube" (thermometer bulb, light bulb, etc.).
bulbous (adj.) Look up bulbous at
1570s, "pertaining to a bulb," from Latin bulbosus, from bulbus (see bulb). Meaning "bulb-shaped" is recorded from 1783. Related: Bulbously; bulbousness.
Bulgar (n.) Look up Bulgar at
1759, "inhabitant of Bulgaria" (Bulgarian is attested from 1550s), from Medieval Latin Bulgarus (see Bulgaria).
Bulgaria (n.) Look up Bulgaria at
Medieval Latin, from Bulgari "Bulgarians," perhaps literally "the men from the Bolg," the River Volga, upon whose banks they lived until 6c. But the people's name for themselves in Old Bulgarian was Blugarinu, according to OED, which suggests a different origin. In other sources [such as Room], the name is said to be ultimately from Turkic bulga "mixed," in reference to the nature of this people of Turko-Finnish extraction but Slavic language.
Bulgarian (n.) Look up Bulgarian at
1550s, from Bulgaria + -ian.
bulge (n.) Look up bulge at
c. 1200, "wallet, leather bag," from Old French bouge, boulge "wallet, pouch, leather bag," or directly from Latin bulga "leather sack" (see budget (n.)). Sense of "a swelling" is first recorded 1620s. Bilge (q.v.) might be a nautical variant.
bulge (v.) Look up bulge at
"to protrude, swell out," 1670s, from bulge (n.). Related: Bulged; bulging.
bulgur (n.) Look up bulgur at
cereal food, from Turkish bulghur, bulgar.
bulimia (n.) Look up bulimia at
1976, Modern Latin, from Greek boulimia, "ravenous hunger" as a disease, literally "ox-hunger," from bou-, intensive prefix (originally from bous "ox;" see cow (n.)) + limos "hunger," from PIE root *leie- "to waste away." As a psychological disorder, technically bulemia nervosa. Englished bulimy was used from late 14c. in a medical sense of "ravishing hunger."
bulimic (adj.) Look up bulimic at
1854, "voracious;" see bulimia + -ic. Meaning "suffering from bulimia nervosa" is recorded from 1977. The noun in this sense is from 1980.
bulk (n.) Look up bulk at
mid-15c., "a heap," earlier "ship's cargo" (mid-14c.), from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse bulki "a heap; ship's cargo," thus "goods loaded loose" (perhaps literally "rolled-up load"), from Proto-Germanic *bul-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, inflate, swell" (see bole).

Meaning extended by confusion with obsolete bouk "belly" (from Old English buc "body, belly," from Proto-Germanic *bukaz; see bucket), which led to sense of "size," first attested mid-15c.
bulk (v.) Look up bulk at
"swell, become more massive," 1550s (usually with up), from bulk (n.). Related: Bulked; bulking.
bulkhead (n.) Look up bulkhead at
late 15c., with head (n.); the first element perhaps from bulk "framework projecting in the front of a shop" (1580s), which is perhaps from Old Norse bolkr "beam, balk" (see balk (n.)).
bulky (adj.) Look up bulky at
mid-15c., "plump, stout," from bulk (n.) + -y (2). Related: Bulkiness.
bull (n.1) Look up bull at
"bovine male animal," from Old English bula "a bull, a steer," or Old Norse boli "bull," both from Proto-Germanic *bullon- (cognates: Middle Dutch bulle, Dutch bul, German Bulle), perhaps from a Germanic verbal stem meaning "to roar," which survives in some German dialects and perhaps in the first element of boulder (q.v.). The other possibility [Watkins] is that the Germanic root is from PIE *bhln-, from root *bhel- (2) "to blow, inflate, swell" (see bole).

An uncastrated male, reared for breeding, as opposed to a bullock or steer. Extended after 1610s to males of other large animals (elephant, alligator, whale, etc.). Stock market sense is from 1714 (see bear (n.)). Meaning "policeman" attested by 1859. Figurative phrase to take the bull by the horns first recorded 1711. To be a bull in a china shop, figurative of careless and inappropriate use of force, attested from 1812 and was the title of a popular humorous song in 1820s England. Bull-baiting attested from 1570s.
bull (n.2) Look up bull at
"papal edict," c. 1300, from Medieval Latin bulla "sealed document" (source of Old French bulle, Italian bulla), originally the word for the seal itself, from Latin bulla "round swelling, knob," said ultimately to be from Gaulish, from PIE *beu-, a root supposed to have formed words associated with swelling (cognates: Lithuanian bule "buttocks," Middle Dutch puyl "bag," also possibly Latin bucca "cheek").
bull (v.) Look up bull at
"push through roughly," 1884, from bull (n.1). Related: Bulled; bulling.
bull (n.3) Look up bull at
"false talk, fraud," Middle English, apparently from Old French bole "deception, trick, scheming, intrigue," and perhaps connected to modern Icelandic bull "nonsense."
Sais christ to ypocrites ... yee ar ... all ful with wickednes, tresun and bull. ["Cursor Mundi," early 14c.]
There also was a verb bull meaning "to mock, cheat," which dates from 1530s.
bull-dyke (n.) Look up bull-dyke at
also bulldyke, 1926, from bull (n.1) + dyke.
bull-headed (adj.) Look up bull-headed at
also bullheaded, "obstinate," 1818, from bull (n.1) + head (n.).
bull-ring (n.) Look up bull-ring at
arena for bull fights, c. 1600, from bull (n.1) + ring (n.1).
bulla (n.) Look up bulla at
1876, from Latin bulla (plural bullae), literally "bubble" (see bull (n.2)).
bulldog (n.) Look up bulldog at
c. 1500, from bull (n.1) + dog (n.). Perhaps from shape, perhaps because originally used for baiting bulls.
bulldoze (v.) Look up bulldoze at
by 1880, from an earlier noun, bulldose "a severe beating or lashing" (1876), literally "a dose fit for a bull," a slang word referring to the intimidation beating of black voters (by either blacks or whites) in the chaotic 1876 U.S. presidential election. See bull (n.1) + dose (n.). Related: Bulldozed; bulldozing.
bulldozer (n.) Look up bulldozer at
"person who intimidates by violence," 1876, agent noun from bulldoze (q.v.). Meaning extended to ground-clearing caterpillar tractor in 1930.
bullet (n.) Look up bullet at
1550s, from Middle French boulette "cannonball, small ball," diminutive of boule "a ball" (13c.), from Latin bulla "round thing, knob" (see bull (n.2)). Earliest version of bite the bullet recorded 1891, probably with a sense of giving someone a soft lead bullet to clench in the teeth during a painful operation.
bulletin (n.) Look up bulletin at
1765, from French bulletin (16c.), modeled on Italian bulletino, diminutive of bulletta "document, voting slip," itself a diminutive of Latin bulla (see bull (n.2)) with equivalent of Old French -elet (see -let). The word was used earlier in English in the Italian form (mid-17c.). Popularized by their use in the Napoleonic Wars as the name for dispatches sent from the front and meant for the home public (which led to the proverbial expression as false as a bulletin). Bulletin board is from 1831.
bullfinch (n.) Look up bullfinch at
1560s, from bull (n.1) + finch; supposedly so called for the shape of its head and neck; compare French bouvreuil.
bullfrog (n.) Look up bullfrog at
also bull-frog, 1738, from bull (n.1) + frog (n.1). So called for its voice.
bullied (adj.) Look up bullied at
1851, past participle adjective from bully (v.).
bullion (n.) Look up bullion at
early 15c., "uncoined gold or silver," from Anglo-French bullion "bar of precious metal," also "place where coins are made, mint," perhaps, through the notion of "melting," from Old French boillir "to boil," from Latin bullire "boil" (see boil (v.)). But perhaps it is rather from Old French bille "stick, block of wood" (see billiards).
bullish (adj.) Look up bullish at
1560s, from bull (n.1) + -ish; stock market sense is from 1882. Related: Bullishly; bullishness.
bullock (n.) Look up bullock at
Old English bulluc "young bull," from Proto-Germanic *bulluka-, from the stem of bull (n.1). Now always a castrated bull reared for beef.
bullpen (n.) Look up bullpen at
also bull-pen, 1915, in the baseball sense, from bull (n.1) + pen (n.2); perhaps from earlier slang meaning "temporary holding cell for prisoners" (1809). Bullpen also was the name of a baseball-like game played in U.S. late 19c.
bullseye (n.) Look up bullseye at
also bulls-eye, 1833, "center of a target," from bull (n.1) + eye (n.). So called for size and color. Meaning "shot that hits the mark" is from 1857.
bullshit (n.) Look up bullshit at
"eloquent and insincere rhetoric," 1915, American English slang; see bull (n.1) + shit (n.), probably because it smells. But bull in the sense of "trivial or false statements" (1914), which usually is associated with this, might be a continuation of Middle English bull "false talk, fraud" (see bull (n.3)).
bullshit (v.) Look up bullshit at
by 1942, from bullshit (n.). Related: Bullshitted; bullshitting.
bully (n.) Look up bully at
1530s, originally "sweetheart," applied to either sex, from Dutch boel "lover; brother," probably a diminutive of Middle Dutch broeder "brother" (compare Middle High German buole "brother," source of German Buhle "lover;" see brother (n.)).

Meaning deteriorated 17c. through "fine fellow" and "blusterer" to "harasser of the weak" (1680s, from bully-ruffian, 1650s). Perhaps this was by influence of bull (n.1), but a connecting sense between "lover" and "ruffian" may be in "protector of a prostitute," which was one sense of bully (though not specifically attested until 1706). The expression meaning "worthy, jolly, admirable" (especially in 1864 U.S. slang bully for you!) is first attested 1680s, and preserves an earlier, positive sense of the word.
bully (v.) Look up bully at
1710, from bully (n.). Related: Bullied; bullying.
bully pulpit (n.) Look up bully pulpit at
1904, coined by U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt, in reference to the White House.
bullying (n.) Look up bullying at
1802, verbal noun from bully (v.).
bulrush (n.) Look up bulrush at
also bullrush, type of tall plant growing in or near water (in Biblical use, the Egyptian papyrus), mid-15c., bolroysche, from rush (n.); the signification of bull is doubtful.
bulwark (n.) Look up bulwark at
"planking or woodwork round the uppermost parts of a vessel," early 15c., from Middle Dutch bulwerke or Middle High German bolwerc, probably from bole "plank, tree trunk" (from Proto-Germanic *bul-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell;" see bole) + werc "work" (see work (n.)). Figurative sense "means of defense or security" is from 1570s.
bum (n.1) Look up bum at
"buttocks," late 14c., "probably onomatopœic, to be compared with other words of similar sound and with the general sense of 'protuberance, swelling.' " [OED]