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boss +‎ man. First used in the late 1940s, though the usage of "boss" by itself as a form of contempt or to show that one is on their guard dates back to 1552. Term seems to have originally been a pejorative term for a local official.

Alternative forms[edit]


  • (US, New England): IPA(key): /bɔsmæn/
  • (file)


bossman (plural bossmen) (Plural form is rare. See usage notes.)

  1. (vocative) Someone whose name is unknown. Usually denotes that one is chary or extremely unfamiliar with the person being spoken to.
    You should watch what you say, bossman.
    I don't know what to tell you, bossman...
  2. (vocative) Someone who appears stalwart and/or dauntless in both disposition and appearance. Not a term used between those who are close. Usually seen as complimentary.
    You really showed them, bossman. What's your name?
    Hey, bossman. It's been a while since you last travelled through here. Are there any new goings-on?

Usage notes[edit]

  1. Neither of the two senses of this term are synonymous with the colloquial meanings of terms such as "boss", "chief" and "governor."
  2. Not the same as "boss man" or "the boss man", an endearing term used to refer to one's employer.
  3. Because this term is a vocative, the plural is seldom used.


(cautious): friend (colloquial, sarcastic sense)

(admiring): no direct vocative synonyms, but compare non-vocative mensch and vocative or non-vocative the man