bull

Definitions

General English

Economics

  • noun on the Stock Exchange, a person who believes the market will rise and therefore buys shares (or commodities or currency) to sell at a higher price later.

Food

  • An uncastrated male of the bovine species, usually used as a source of semen for impregnating cows
  • Various meats stuffed into pig casings

Forex

  • (written as Bull)
    A Forex trader who has a positive outlook, either short- or long-term, about specific exchange rates and currency values or the overall market. Opposite of a bear.

Slang

  • adjective bad. In this sense the word, probably a shortening of bullshit, has been used in several English-speaking areas since 2000.
  • noun a uniformed policeman. A 200-year-old term still heard in North America and Australia, but never in Britain.
  • noun a shorter and more acceptable version of bullshit. In armed-service usage it particularly refers to excessive regimentation of unnecessary formalities; in civilian speech it often denotes empty talk.

Origin & History of “bull”

There are three distinct words bull in English. The oldest is the animal name, which first appears in late Old English as bula. Related forms occur in other Germanic languages, including German bulle and Dutch bul. The diminutive bullock is also recorded in late Old English. The second bull is ‘edict’ (13th c.), as in ‘papal bull’. this comes from medieval Latin bulla ‘sealed document’, a development of an earlier sense ‘seal’, which can be traced back to classical Latin bulla ‘bubble’ (source also of English bowl, as in the game of bowls; of boil ‘heat liquid’; of budge (16th c.), via Old French bouger and vulgar Latin *bullicāre ‘bubble up, boil’; and probably of bill ‘statement of charges’). And finally there is ‘ludicrous or self-contradictory statement’ (17th c.), usually now in the phrase Irish bull, whose origins are mysterious; there may be a connection with the middle English noun bul ‘falsehood’ and the 15th-to 17th-century verb bull ‘mock, cheat’, which has been linked with Old French boler or bouller ‘deceive’.

The source of the modern colloquial senses ‘nonsense’ and ‘excessive discipline’ is not clear. Both are early 20th-century, and closely associated with the synonymous and contemporary bullshit, suggesting a conscious link with bull the animal. In meaning, however, the first at least is closer to bull ‘ludicrous statement’.

Bull’s-eye ‘centre of a target’ and ‘large sweet’ are both early 19th-century. Bulldoze is from 1870s America, and was apparently originally applied to the punishment of recalcitrant black slaves; it has been conjectured that the underlying connotation was of ‘giving someone a dose fit for a bull’. The term bulldozer was applied to the vehicle in the 1930s.
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