General English


  • noun a silly, empty-headed or frivolous woman. This is the sense of the word in vogue since the late 1980s, imported to Britain and Australia from the USA. The origin is almost certainly a variant of bambino, Italian for baby. In the early 1900s a bimbo, in American colloquial use, was a man, especially a big, unintelligent and aggressive man or a clumsy dupe. By the 1950s the word was used as a nickname for boys in England, perhaps inspired by a popular song of the time. By the 1920s bimbo was being applied to women, especially by popular crime-fiction writers, and it is this use that was revived in the 1980s with the return to fashion of glamorous but not over-cerebral celebrities. In the late 1980s the word was again applied occasionally to males, although with less brutish and more frivolous overtones than earlier usage.
  • noun the bottom, backside. A nursery and schoolchildren’s word of the 1950s, now rarely heard.

Origin & History of “bimbo”

Bimbo most recently made its mark on the English language in the 1980s, when it was in heavy use among journalists to denigrate buxom young women of limited IQ who sold the secrets of their affairs with the rich and famous to the press. It was by no means a newcomer, though. It first crossed the Atlantic to America, from Italy, in the late 1910s. In Italian it means ‘baby’, and US slang took it up in the colloquial sense of baby, for referring to a usually hapless fellow. By the 1920s it was being applied equally to young women, especially promiscuous or empty-headed ones (the latter feature probably reinforced by the appearance of dumbo ‘fool’ in the early 1930s).