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’ [13], as in ‘papal bull’. This comes from medieval Latin bullasealed document’, a development of an earlier sense ‘seal’, which can be traced back to classical Latin bullabubble’ (source also of English bowl, as in the game of bowls; of boilheat liquid’; of budge [16], via Old French bouger and Vulgar Latin *bullicārebubble up, boil’; and probably of billstatement of charges’). And finally there is ‘ludicrous or selfcontradictory statement’ [17], usually now in the phrase Irish bull, whose origins are mysterious; there may be a connection with the Middle English noun bulfalsehood’ and the 15th-to 17th-century verb bullmock, cheat’, which has been linked with Old French boler or boullerdeceive’.
\ \ 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 bullludicrous statement’. Bull’s-eyecentre 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.
\ \ Cf.PHALLIC; BILL, BOWL, BUDGE

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

Synonyms:
(usually of bovine animals) / (issued by the Pope), / (involving a contradiction), / / ,


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