A boy is a young male human. The term is commonly used for a child or an adolescent. When a male human reaches adulthood, he is usually described as a man.

Tigray boy in Ethiopia

Definition, etymology, and use

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a boy is "a male child from birth to adulthood".[1]

The word "boy" comes from Middle English boi, boye ("boy, servant"), related to other Germanic words for boy, namely East Frisian boi ("boy, young man") and West Frisian boai ("boy"). Although the exact etymology is obscure, the English and Frisian forms probably derive from an earlier Anglo-Frisian *bō-ja ("little brother"), a diminutive of the Germanic root *bō- ("brother, male relation"), from Proto-Indo-European *bhā-, *bhāt- ("father, brother"). The root is also found in Norwegian dialectal boa ("brother"), and, through a reduplicated variant *bō-bō-, in Old Norse bófi, Dutch boef "(criminal) knave, rogue", German Bube ("knave, rogue, boy"). Furthermore, the word may be related to Bōia, an Anglo-Saxon personal name.[2]

Poor Neapolitan children
Tanzanian boy transporting fodder

Specific uses


Historically, in the United States and South Africa, "boy" was not only a "neutral" term for domestics but also a disparaging term towards black men; the term implied a subservient status.[3][4][5][6] Thomas Branch, an early African-American Seventh-day Adventist missionary to Nyassaland (Malawi) referred to the native students as "boys":

There is one way by which we judge many of our present boys to be quite different from some of those who were here long ago: those that are married have their wives here with them, and build their own houses, and all are busy making their gardens. I have told all the boys that if they wished to stay here and learn, those that had wives must bring them.[7]

Multiple politicians – including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Kentucky Congressman Geoff Davis – have been criticized publicly for referring to a black man as "boy".[5][6]

During an event promoting the 2017 boxing bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor, the latter told the former to "dance for me, boy."[8] The remarks led several boxers – including Mayweather and Andre Ward – as well as multiple commentators to accuse McGregor of racism.[8][9][10][11]


Sex determination

This picture shows the role of chromosomes in determining the gender of the child, in fact, it is the man who determines the gender of the child, the woman has two XX chromosomes, and the man has two XY chromosomes, if the X chromosome is dominant in the male, the child's chromosome will be XX, and its gender will be female. And if the Y chromosome is dominant, the child's chromosome will be XY, whose gender is male

Human sex is determined at fertilization when the genetic sex of the zygote has been initialized by a sperm cell containing either an X or Y chromosome. If this sperm cell contains an X chromosome, it will coincide with the X chromosome of the ovum and a girl will develop. A sperm cell carrying a Y chromosome results in an XY combination, and a boy will develop.[12]

In utero development and genitalia

Armenian boys at play
Bangladeshi boys, sitting in a tree

In male embryos at six to seven weeks' gestation, "the expression of a gene on the Y chromosome induces changes that result in the development of the testes". At approximately nine weeks' gestation, the production of testosterone by a male embryo results in the development of the male reproductive system.[13]

Filipino boy

The male reproductive system includes both external and internal organs. The external organs include the penis, the scrotum, and the testicles (or testes). The penis is a cylindrical organ filled with spongy tissue. It is the organ used by boys to expel urine. The foreskin of some boys' penises is removed in a process known as circumcision. The scrotum is a loose sac of skin behind the penis which contains the testicles. Testicles are oval-shaped gonads. A boy generally possesses two testicles. Internal male reproductive organs include the vas deferens, the ejaculatory ducts, the urethra, the seminal vesicles, and the prostate gland.[14][15]

Physical maturation

Puberty is the process by which children's bodies mature into adult bodies that are capable of reproduction. On average, boys begin puberty at ages 11–12 and complete puberty at ages 16–17.[16][17]

In boys, puberty begins with the enlargement of the testicles and scrotum. The penis also increases in size, and a boy develops pubic hair. A boy's testicles also begin making sperm. The release of semen, which contains sperm and other fluids, is called ejaculation.[18] During puberty, a boy's erect penis becomes capable of ejaculating semen and impregnating a female.[14][15] A boy's first ejaculation is an important milestone in his development.[19] On average, a boy's first ejaculation occurs at age 13.[20] Ejaculation sometimes occurs during sleep; this phenomenon is known as a nocturnal emission.[18]

When a boy reaches puberty, testosterone triggers the development of secondary sex characteristics. A boy's muscles increase in size and mass, his voice deepens, his bones lengthen, and the shape of his face and body changes.[21] The increased secretion of testosterone from the testicles during puberty causes the male secondary sexual characteristics to be manifested.[22] Male secondary sex characteristics include:

Adolescent boys in Uruguay

Gender norms

Boys who defy gender norms may face a higher risk of abuse, and may experience more depression than gender-conforming peers, as well as social stigma from parents[26] and peers.[27][28] The gender policing towards them can increase the risk of alcoholism, anxiety, and depression in adulthood.[29]

In some cultures, the birth of a male child (boy) is considered prosperous.[30]

Boys and child labor

Boys perform the majority of child labor around the world compared to girls; 88 million child laborers are boys and 64 million are girls. Boys are also the primary victims of hazardous child labor. They are mainly employed in the agriculture, construction and mining sectors. Boy workers also account for about 87 percent of those who died on the job between 2003 and 2016 in the US.[31]

Boys working in textile mills Massachusetts, 1912

Boys are given a basic reading, writing and mathematics skill and then forced to pursue their father's profession in order to alleviate financial burden of the family. This is one of the main reasons why boys are preferred over girls by the rural communities in poor countries. In India, by contrast, the majority of adopted children are girls even though boys are preferred in general compared to girls.[32][33][34]

See also


  1. ^ "Definition of BOY".
  2. ^ See:
    • Etymology Online - entry for "boy"
    • H. H. Malincrodt, Latijn-Nederlands woordenboek (Latin-Dutch dictionary)
    • Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary
    • Buck, Carl Darling (1988) [1949]. A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-07937-0.
  3. ^ Corriher, Billy (2011-12-21). "Court finally says 'boy' comments are racist". Harvard Law and Policy Review. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  4. ^ Ifill, Sherrilyn A. (24 August 2010). "When 'Boy' Is Not a Racist Remark". The Root. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  5. ^ a b Martin, Roland S. (15 April 2008). "Understanding why you don't call a black man a boy". CNN.com. Archived from the original on 2022-05-25. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  6. ^ a b "Racist Or Not? Gov. Chris Christie Calls Black Man 'Boy' In Town Hall [VIDEO]". News One. 2013-03-16. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  7. ^ Branch, Thomas H. (January 3, 1907). "British Central Africa" (PDF). Review and Herald. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. 84 (1): 18. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
  8. ^ a b "Floyd Mayweather accuses Conor McGregor of racism and uses homophobic slur". The Guardian. 2017-07-15. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  9. ^ Chiari, Mike (13 July 2017). "Andre Ward Doesn't Like Conor McGregor Calling Floyd Mayweather 'Boy'". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  10. ^ Callahan, Yesha (13 June 2017). "Yes, Conor McGregor Is a Racist". The Root. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  11. ^ Bell, Gabriel (14 July 2017). "Conor McGregor denies being a racist with racist statement". Salon. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  12. ^ Fauci et al. 2008, pp. 2339–2346.
  13. ^ Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Understanding the Biology of Sex and Gender Differences (November 28, 2001). Wizemann, Theresa M.; Pardue, Mary-Lou (eds.). Sex Begins in the Womb. National Academies Press (US) – via www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
  14. ^ a b "Male Reproductive System Information". Cleveland Clinic.
  15. ^ a b "The Male Reproductive System". WebMD.
  16. ^ Kail, RV; Cavanaugh JC (2010). Human Development: A Lifespan View (5th ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 296. ISBN 978-0-495-60037-4.
  17. ^ D. C. Phillips (2014). Encyclopedia of Educational Theory and Philosophy. SAGE Publications. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-1-4833-6475-9. On average, the onset of puberty is about 18 months earlier for girls (usually starting around the age of 10 or 11 and lasting until they are 15 to 17) than for boys (who usually begin puberty at about the age of 11 to 12 and complete it by the age of 16 to 17, on average).
  18. ^ a b "Puberty: Adolescent Male | Johns Hopkins Medicine". Hopkinsmedicine.org. Retrieved 2020-02-27.
  19. ^ "Male puberty milestones". Health24. Retrieved 2020-02-27.
  20. ^ (Jorgensen & Keiding 1991).
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Bjorklund DF, Blasi CH (2011). Child and Adolescent Development: An Integrated Approach. Cengage Learning. pp. 152–153. ISBN 978-1133168379.
  22. ^ Van de Graaff & Fox 1989, p. 933-4.
  23. ^ Pack PE (2016). CliffsNotes AP Biology, 5th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 219. ISBN 978-0544784178.
  24. ^ a b "Help is here!". hartnell.edu. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009.
  25. ^ "Secondary Characteristics". hu-berlin.de. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27.
  26. ^ Bridges, Dori (24 April 2019). "Parents more uncomfortable with gender-nonconforming behaviors in boys, study finds". PsyPost. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  27. ^ "Gender Nonconforming Children, Particularly Boys, Are Less Popular With Peers". The Good Men Project. 20 January 2020. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  28. ^ Roberts, Andrea; Rosario, Margaret; Slopen, Natalie; Calzo, Jeren (2012). "Childhood Gender Nonconformity, Bullying Victimization, and Depressive Symptoms Across Adolescence and Early Adulthood: An 11-Year Longitudinal Study". Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 52 (2): 143–152. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2012.11.006. PMC 3635805. PMID 23357441. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  29. ^ Bauermeister, José A.; Connochie, Daniel; Jadwin-Cakmak, Laura; Meanley, Steven (May 2017). "Gender Policing During Childhood and the Psychological Well-Being of Young Adult Sexual Minority Men in the United States". American Journal of Men's Health. 11 (3): 693–701. doi:10.1177/1557988316680938. ISSN 1557-9883. PMC 5393921. PMID 27903954.
  30. ^ Brink, Susan (26 August 2015). "Selecting Boys Over Girls Is A Trend In More And More Countries". NPR.org. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  31. ^ "Child Labor Facts and Statistics about Child Labor Around The World - Compassion International". www.compassion.com. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  32. ^ "10 Basic Facts about Child Labor Globally – stopchildlabor". stopchildlabor.org. 16 July 2018. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  33. ^ "World Day Against Child Labour: 152 million children are forced to work for a living". India Today. June 12, 2018. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  34. ^ "The number of Children available for adoption is less than 1/4th the demand despite the simplification in adoption process". FACTLY. 2016-07-11. Retrieved 2021-05-26.

Further reading

External links