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See also: Bough



PIE word

From Middle English bough (branch of a bush or tree, especially a main branch; limb of an animal or person; something resembling a branch (such as a plant root or branch of a nerve); (figuratively) Christian cross; descendant, offspring) [and other forms],[1] from Old English bōg, bōh (tree bough or branch; arm; shoulder), from Proto-West Germanic *bōgu, from Proto-Germanic *bōguz (shoulder; upper arm), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰeh₂ǵʰús (arm).[2]

Cognate with Saterland Frisian Bouch, West Frisian boech, Dutch boeg, German Low German Boog, German Bug, Danish bov, Icelandic bógur, and distantly with Ancient Greek πῆχυς (pêkhus, forearm, cubit, etc.). Doublet of bow ("front of a ship, prow").



bough (plural boughs)

  1. A tree-branch, usually a primary one directly attached to the trunk.
    When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall. (Rock-a-bye Baby)
  2. (obsolete, figuratively, poetic) A gallows.
    • 1584, A Breefe Discourse, Declaring and Approuing the Necessarie and Inuiolable Maintenance of the Laudable Customes of London: [], London: [] Henrie Midleton for Rafe Newberie, OCLC 25316347, pages 26–27:
      It was vſed of auncient time in Gauelkind land, & hath receiued the allowance and iudgement of a good and lawfull cuſtome, that if the huſband be attainted and executed for a felonie by him committed, yet ſhall his wife for the ſolace of her loſſe and deſolation haue her dowrie of his land, and alſo the heire ſhall inherite the ſame according to that olde ſaying: The father to the bough, & the ſonne to the plough, []
    • 1870, William Morris, “December: The Fostering of Aslaug”, in The Earthly Paradise: A Poem, part IV, London: F[rederick] S[tartridge] Ellis, [], OCLC 51004898, page 77:
      "No need," he said, "long words to make, / And little heed we thy lies now, / But if she doom thee to the bough.["]

Alternative forms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ bǒugh, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ Compare “bough, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2021; “bough, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

Further reading[edit]