from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An employer or supervisor.
  • noun One who makes decisions or exercises authority.
  • noun A professional politician who controls a party or a political machine.
  • transitive verb To give orders to, especially in an arrogant or domineering manner.
  • adjective First-rate; topnotch.
  • noun A circular protuberance or knoblike swelling, as on the horns of certain animals.
  • noun A raised area used as ornamentation.
  • noun Architecture A raised ornament, such as one at the intersection of the ribs in a vaulted roof.
  • noun An enlarged part of a shaft to which another shaft is coupled or to which a wheel or gear is keyed.
  • noun A hub, especially of a propeller.
  • transitive verb To emboss.
  • noun A cow or calf.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To ornament with bosses; bestud.
  • Same as emboss.
  • In ceramics, to bring (a surface of boiled oil) to perfect uniformity. See bossing, 1.
  • noun A cask, especially a small cask; a leather bottle for wine.
  • noun A wooden vessel used by plasterers for holding mortar, hung by a hook on a ladder or a wall.
  • noun A hassock; a bass.
  • Hollow; empty: as, “his thick boss head,”
  • To be master of or over; manage; direct; control: as, to boss the house.
  • noun A master. Specifically—
  • noun In United States politics, an influential politician who uses the machinery of a party for private ends, or for the advantage of a ring or clique; a professional politician having paramount local influence.
  • noun The chief; the master; the champion; the best or leading person or thing.
  • Chief; master; hence, first-rate: as, a boss mason; a boss player.
  • noun A protuberant part; a round, swelling process or excrescence on the body or upon some organ of an animal or plant.
  • noun A hump or hunch on the back; a humpback.
  • noun A bulky animal.
  • noun A fat woman.
  • noun A stud or knob.
  • noun In sculpture, a projecting mass to be afterward cut or carved.
  • noun In architecture, an ornament placed at the intersection of the ribs or groins in vaulted or flat roofs, sometimes richly sculptured with armorial bearings or other devices; also, any projecting ball or knot of foliage, etc., wherever placed.
  • noun In mech.: The enlarged part of a shaft on which a wheel is to be keyed, or any enlarged part of the diameter, as the end of a separate piece in a line of shafts connected by couplings. Hollow shafts through which others pass are sometimes also called bosses, but improperly.
  • noun A swage or die used for shaping metals.
  • noun In ordnance: A cast-iron plate fastened to the back of a traveling-forge hearth.
  • noun Any protuberance or lug upon a piece of ordnance.
  • noun A soft leather cushion or pad used for bossing (which see), and also for cleaning gilded surfaces and the like in porcelain- and glass-manufacture.
  • noun A water-conduit in the form of a tun-bellied figure; a head or reservoir of water.
  • noun In geology, an irregular knob-like outcrop of eruptive rock, especially of granite.
  • noun In the United States: A familiar name for a cow, or any of the bovine genus: chiefly used in calling or in soothing. On the Western plains, a name for the bison or so-called buffalo.
  • noun The worked-out portion of a mine; the goaf.
  • In mining, to hole or undercut.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To ornament with bosses; to stud.
  • noun Slang, U. S. A master workman or superintendent; a director or manager; a political dictator.
  • noun Any protuberant part; a round, swelling part or body; a knoblike process.
  • noun A protuberant ornament on any work, either of different material from that of the work or of the same, as upon a buckler or bridle; a stud; a knob; the central projection of a shield. See Umbilicus.
  • noun (Arch.) A projecting ornament placed at the intersection of the ribs of ceilings, whether vaulted or flat, and in other situations.
  • noun A wooden vessel for the mortar used in tiling or masonry, hung by a hook from the laths, or from the rounds of a ladder.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Dutch baas, master (from earlier, uncle); akin to Old High German basa, aunt.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English boce, from Old French.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Akin to English dialectal (southwest England) buss, boss, young calf and probably also to busk, calf remaining unweaned for too long, of unknown origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Apparently a corruption of bass.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English bos, bose, boce, from Old French boce ("lump, bulge, protuberance, knot"), from Old Frankish *bottja ("a shoot, sprout"; whence also Italian boccia, bocciolo ("bud"); Italian bozzo ("bump")), a derivative of Old Frankish *bōtan (“to push, thrust, strike, beat”), from Proto-Germanic *bautanan (“to push, beat”), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰÀud-, *bʰÀu- (“to beat, push, strike”). Cognate with Old Frisian botta ("a shock, thrust, blow"), Middle Low German bote, bōte ("bundle of flax"), Old High German bōzo ("bundle of flax"), Old High German bōz ("a blow"). More at beat.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Dutch baas, from Middle Dutch baes ("master of a household, friend"), from Old Dutch *baso (“uncle, kinsman”), from Proto-Germanic *baswô, masculine form of Proto-Germanic *baswōn (“father's sister, aunt, cousin”). Cognate with Middle Low German bās ("supervisor, foreman"), Old Frisian bas ("master"), Old High German basa ("father's sister, cousin"; > German Base ("aunt, cousin")).


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  • A label boss had sent me an impressive bottle of Texas mescal, complete with drowned worm in the bottom.


  • A label boss had sent me an impressive bottle of Texas mescal, complete with drowned worm in the bottom.


  • A label boss had sent me an impressive bottle of Texas mescal, complete with drowned worm in the bottom.


  • The word boss comes from the Dutch word baas which literally means master.

    Blog De Ganz | Archive | December 2007

  • Howlett claims he can only recall one time when he saw the label boss lose his cool.

    The Guardian World News Tim Jonze 2011

  • Ertegun's major breakthrough was the 1952 signing of Ray Charles, although it wasn't until two years later that the label boss and his new partner, Jerry Wexler, a Bronx-born ex -- Top News 2011

  • Already sounding like a label boss, Dr. Luke said between the signing and the Champagne last Friday: I plan to sign only artists that I really love and really want to work with.

    NYT > Home Page By BEN SISARIO 2011

  • The label boss, Syd Nathan, didn't like the name Sylvester Thompson, so he changed it to Syl Johnson.

    NPR Topics: News 2011

  • They also gave her presents and Susan was left stunned by one gift - a £6,000 bracelet from her label boss Simon Cowell, who had the jewellery sent to the venue.

    Celebrity Photos and News at ExpoSay 2010

  • Su-Bo was also given presents by her adoring fans, including a £6,000 bracelet from her label boss

    MTV UK Joanne Dorken 2010

  • The boss factor, he said, emerges when “somebody gets a new job, and so they don’t have as much time to devote to their open source projects anymore, and they kind of let them fall by the wayside.”

    Open Source Needs Maintainers. But How Can They Get Paid? Heather Joslyn 2023


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  • Scouse slang for cool or excellent.

    October 11, 2007

  • "That's totally boss!" as in "That's cool!"

    April 25, 2008

  • This word came from the Dutch word baas, meaning "master." But early americans didn’t like using master - it was too aristocratic to survive as a general term. So they started using "baas" in the late 18th century. It caught on (against the objections of some word snobs) and eventually became "boss."

    May 16, 2008

  • In castle architecture, an ornamental projection covering the intersection of the ribs in a vault.

    (whichbe, that's cool, thanks for posting!)

    August 24, 2008

  • About "boss." I am in my seventies and have noticed recently younger people, especially clerks, ticket sellers, etc. addressing me as "boss." Anyone else noticed this? Is it used only younger to older or is it be server to servee?

    January 24, 2012

  • Hi Norm. When I lived in the UK I also noticed this usage in the situations you describe, especially in the Northern part of the country. In fact I picked it up and used it myself sometimes when working behind a bar. My sense is that it's used specifically by younger males when addressing older men; especially, as you point out, by a younger man providing a product or service, or doing a courtesy, to an older one.

    January 24, 2012

  • yarb, Thanks for the comments boss; it pretty well agrees with my observation; I don't think I had noticed the male restriction, but now that you mention it, I don't recall ever hearing it from a woman. Interesting that you found it in the northern UK. I wonder if it is more widespread in England. Also, I think I have heard it in the US only in California, but I am not sure.

    January 25, 2012

  • I'm sure I've noticed it in London, too.

    January 25, 2012

  • in cycling, it's a small fixture welded or brazed to a bike frame which has a screw hole to allow the mounting of disk brakes, water bottles, fenders, or accessories.

    January 12, 2013