Green’s Dictionary of Slang

booby n.1

also boobie
[? Sp. bobo, a fool; phr. also puns on SE booby, a large, slow-flying bird]

1. a fool, an idiot, a peasant.

[UK]Middleton & Rowley Spanish Gypsy III i: Beggars would on cock-horse ride, / And boobies fall a-roaring.
[UK]R. Brome Sparagus Garden II v: I tell thee thou old booby thou.
[UK] ‘Great Boobee’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1891) VII:2 273: He call’d me Fool, and Country Clown, and great Boobee.
[UK]Mercurius Democritus 9 Nov. 644: The Mobbs very honestly pick’d his Pockets[...] and left him (like an Old Boobee) in the lurch.
[UK]W. Chamberlayne Love’s Victory 12: A carter, they know how to swaddle their legs In straw – do you not boobies?
[UK]Dryden Sir Martin Mar-all IV i: A great Booby, an over-grown Oaf.
[UK]C. Cotton Scoffer Scoff’d (1765) 222: A little domineering Trull, / That made the big-bon’d Booby pull / CoarseHempen-Hurds.
[UK]T. Brown Saints in Uproar in Works (1760) I 74: Such a booby as thou art, [...] dispute [...] with a person of my quality.
[UK]N. Ward ‘Reflections on a Country Corporation’ Writings (1704) 20: Honest Men Precious are as Rubies; / Their May’rs Successively are Boobies, / And Aldermen great Brawny Loobies.
[UK]Farquhar Sir Harry Wildair II i: Here, Aukwardness, go take the Booby’s message.
[UK]Farquhar Beaux’ Strategem II i: She wheadles her booby up to town.
[UK]W. King York Spy 25: We came to Conny-Street, where the Babes of Grace were handing about a dead Rat, and ever now and then, tos’d it into the Face of some staring Booby or other.
[UK]Vanbrugh & Cibber Provoked Husband I i: His being a Booby; that last Will of an obstinate old Uncle gave it to me.
[UK]Swift Polite Conversation 36: Is it possible that she could take that Booby Tom Blunder for Love?
[UK]Smollett Roderick Random (1979) 27: Zounds! What does the booby stare at?
[UK]Foote Englishman in Paris in Works (1799) I 42: mr subtle: How the baggage leer’d! mrs subtle: And the booby gap’d.
[UK]Nancy Dawson’s Jests 9: An ignorant booby lived with a young gentleman at Oxford.
[UK]Sheridan Rivals (1776) V ii: ‘O, booby! stab away and welcome’ – says she.
[UK]W. Cowper Letters and Prose (1981) II 620: Through the inattention of Booby the Waggoner they got a squeeze that broke six of them.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions .
[UK]Observer 4 Dec. 2: Every sagacious mother fits the mitre or the mace to her darling booby.
[UK] ‘Sung in the Strangers at Home’ Songster’s Companion 51: When up to London first I came, An aukward country booby, I gap’d, and star’d, and did the same As ev’ry other looby.
[US]‘Hector Bull-us’ Diverting Hist. of John Bull and Brother Jonathan 65: She called him prating gabbler, liquorish glutton [...] codshead booby, noddipeak simpleton, ninnihammer gnatsnapper, and various other names.
[Ire]Spirit of Irish Wit 248: He meets a staring country booby.
[UK] in T. Creevey letter n.d. in Gore Creevey Papers (1948) 232: One booby says it is the Poor Rate – another the Tithe.
[UK]Duncombe Dens of London 34: Hold your tongue, you ass [...] the booby’s mad and should be sent to St. Luke’s.
[US]J.C. Neal Peter Ploddy and Other Oddities 103: The boy is a booby [...] why can’t you stand up straight and speak out?
[UK]Sam Sly 24 Mar. 3/1: Sam would advise Sam K—n—d, the nobby pressman [...] not to make himself such a ‘soft cake’ [...] Look out, you eccentric booby.
[UK]Fast Man 9:1 n.p.: [T]he males are either shopmen, bankers' clerks, or country ‘boobies,’ trying to ‘go the pace’ .
[US]G.H. Miles Mary’s Birthday II i: Of course you were a fool to do what you did; any other booby would have done the same.
[UK]J.C. Parkinson Places and People 23: A few minute’s delay, during which booby is gruffly and fruitlessly recommended to ‘give up blathering, as that won’t give him his money back’.
[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 23: He is a stupid booby, though he is Lieutenant Frere.
[UK]Reynolds’s Newspaper 27 June 5/2: Eton [...] has turned out some clever men, and an amazing number of boobies .
[Ind]‘Aliph Cheem’ Lays of Ind (1905) 7: She wore genuine rubies / Presented by boobies.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 22 Jan. 5/4: Now mount your musty pulpit – thump, / And muddle fat clod-hoppers, / And let some long-eared booby ‘hump’ / The plate about for coppers.
[UK]T.B. Reed Fifth Form at St Dominic’s (1890) 316: ‘Shut up, you great booby’.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 6 Nov. 91: The biggest booby can spell when he has the letters afore his e’en.
[Aus]‘Miles Franklin’ My Brilliant Career 94: I’m not a booby that will fall in love with every gussie I see.
[NZ]Truth (Wellington) 11 Jan. 5/8: ‘Truth’ regrets that it is unable to give the blundering boobie’s number.
[UK]A. Bennett Card (1974) 247: Every one agreed that he must be an insufferable booby.
[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 4 Dec. 5/6: The boys who wanted to sign on for the war are quite contented to stay at home and sing ‘Tipperary.’ Boobies!
[UK]Marvel 24 July 5: You silly booby, of course I know that!
[US]B. Hecht A Thousand and One Afternoons [ebook] [W]e are what we are—browbeaten, weary-eyed, terribly optimistic units of the boobilariat.
[UK]E. Raymond Child of Norman’s End (1967) 509: Why don’t you, you great booby?
[Ire]S. O’Casey Red Roses for Me Act II: An’ here’s another o’ th’ boobies entherin’ now.
[US]Ella Fitzgerald ‘You’re an Old Smoothie’ 🎵 I’m a big boobie / I just go nutty in the hands of a boy like you.
[US]R. Serling ‘Whole Truth’ in New Stories from the Twilight Zone 4: You gotta close the hood, boobie.
[UK]C. Stead Cotters’ England (1980) 127: It sticks in me craw to think she could have made such a booby out of you.
[US](con. 1949) J.G. Dunne True Confessions (1979) 159: Pumping me [...] like I’m some sort of harp booby.
[UK]P. Reading ‘The Euphemisms’ Tom O’Bedlam’s Beauties 42: Simple Simons / Asses, Owls, Donkeys, Mules, / Nincompoops, Wiseacres, Boobies, / Noodles, Numskulls, Gawks, Tomfools.
[UK]Guardian G2 22 July 7: Alexander McQueen, the celebrated inventor of bumsters [...] was the most inventive in making women look like boobies.
[UK]Daily Mail 30 Aug. 15: He yelled, ‘You’re a f.....g booby!’.

2. an insane person.

[US]T. Willocks Green River Rising 226: This is where they used to keep the boobies. I mean them that went insane, guys with syphilis of the brain.

In derivatives


foolishness, stupidity.

‘Boz’ Sketches by Boz (1895) 88: The donkeys who are prevailed upon to pay for permission to exhibit their lamentable ignorance and boobyism on the stage of a private theatre.

In compounds

booby-coop (n.) (US)

1. a prison.

[US]St. Joseph Gazette-Herald (MS) 6/1The Polk county jail is packed [...] with vagrants, drunks and other prisoners who annually find their way to the ‘booby coop’ during fair week.:

2. in fig. use, in a state of failure.

[US]Pittsburgh Press (PA) 6 Apr. 25/3: [C]lubs which mowed down all opposition in Marched finished in the booby-coop in October.

3. a psychiatric institution.

[US]Palladium-Item (Richmond, IN) 1 Oct. 8/3: When a man [...] frets and worries himself nearly into a booby coop [etc].
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 3 Jan. [synd. col.] What famous magnate is trying to catch his index finger in a booby-coop?
[US]Smith Alumnae Qly 28-29 262/2: The hectic and heavenly home life awaiting us in the booby coop, known fondly as Mensel Mansion.
[US]W.D. Steele That Girl from Memphis 372: All I can swear is, either he was a loon or you’re loons [...] and this isn'’ a town, it’s a booby coop.
[US]Power Farming 8: One does not need to go to the booby coop of Brussels to see stupid bureaucracy at work.
booby-hatch (n.)

see separate entry.

booby house (n.)

(US) a lunatic asylum.

[US]A.H. Lewis ‘The Humming Bird’ in Sandburrs 26: If it wasn’t for d’ hop I shoots into him wit’ a dandy little hypodermic gun [...] he’d be in the booby house.
[US]A.H. Lewis Apaches of N.Y. 206: I for one shall retire to th’ booby house an’ devote th’ remainder of an ill-spent life to cuttin’ paper dolls.
T. Addison Come-on Charley 19: If I knew do you think I’d be standing here talking to a candidate for the booby house?
q. in B. Rhatican White House Under Fire (2005) 162: I know of one girl who has been kept seventeen days on water this month in the ‘booby house.’ The same was kept nineteen days on water last year .
D. Stevens Jailed for Freedom 113: Old Whittaker beat up that girl over there just last week and put her in the ‘booby’ house on bread and water for five days.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 274: In the booby-house you eat every day.
P. Howard Oh My God Delusion [ebook] I presume at first that she’s ringing to tell me the old dear’s had a sudden meltdown and been corted off to the booby house.
booby-hutch (n.)

see separate entry.

booby wagon (n.)

(US) the vehicle in which arrested people are transported to the local police station or prison.

[US]Hecht & Bodenheim Cutie 46: They had you stretched out on the curbing waiting for the booby wagon.
[US]Atlantic 149 438/1: The next day we were herded into the so-called ‘booby wagon,’ and taken to the offices for examination.
E. Wagner Grand Concourse 220: Well, Captain, you’re ready for the booby wagon?
[US] in DARE.
[US]Evergreen Rev. 17 122: Instead of the strait jacket, therefore, he is wrapped by the men in white in a blanket which [...] suggests the last cloak that Jesus wore. He duly disappears into the booby wagon.
[WI]S. Selvon Moses Ascending 116: I even thought of dialling nine nine nine and ask them to send the booby wagon. And then, I tried to pull myself together.

In phrases

beat the booby (v.)

to beat one’s hands against one’s sides to get warm on a cold day.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: cuff to cuff Jones, said of one who is knock kneed, or who beats his sides to keep himself warm in frosty weather; called also beating the booby.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[US]P. Kendall Dict. Service Sl. n.p.: beat the booby ... slap body to increase circulation.
[UK]I. & P. Opie Lore and Lang. of Schoolchildren (1977) 201: To warm one’s hands by slapping oneself is to ‘beat the booby’.