AskDefine | Define booby

Dictionary Definition



1 an ignorant or foolish person [syn: dumbbell, dummy, dope, boob, pinhead]
2 small tropical gannet having a bright bill or bright feet or both

User Contributed Dictionary



Etymology 1

17th Century. Spanish bobo, from Latin balbus ‘stammering’


  1. A stupid person.
  2. In the context of "by extension": Any of various tropical seabirds from the genera Sula and Papasula, resembling gannets; rests at night in the rigging of sailing ships from where it is easy to catch.
stupid person

Etymology 2

Variant of the earlier bubby. The shortened term boob is a further development from this.


  1. a woman’s breast
    At ten o’clock she was lying on the divan with her boobies in her hands. — Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 1934
woman’s breast

Extensive Definition

The boobies are part of the family Sulidae, a group of seabirds, and are closely related to gannets. The true boobies all belong to the genus Sula.
These are large birds with long pointed wings and long bills. They hunt fish by diving from a height into the sea and pursuing their prey underwater. They have facial air sacs under their skin which cushion the impact with the water.
Boobies are colonial breeders on islands and coasts. They normally lay one or more chalky-blue eggs on the ground or sometimes in a tree nest. Their name is possibly based on the Spanish slang term bobo, meaning "dunce", as these tame birds had a habit of landing on-board sailing ships, where they were easily captured and eaten.
Owing to this, boobies are often mentioned as having been caught and eaten by shipwrecked sailors, notably Captain Bligh of the Bounty and his loyalists during their famous voyage after being set adrift by Fletcher Christian and his mutineers.

Systematics and evolution

Five of the six extant Sulidae species called "boobies" are in the genus Sula, while the three gannets are usually treated in the genus Morus. Abbott's Booby was formerly included in Sula but is now placed in a monotypic genus Papasula which represents an ancient lineage perhaps closer to Morus (Friesen et al. 2002). Some authorities consider that all nine species should be considered congeneric, in Sula. However, they are readily told apart by means of osteology, and the distinct lineages of gannets and boobies are known to have existed in such form since at least the Middle Miocene, c.15 mya (Olson 1985).
The fossil record of boobies is not as well documented as that of gannets; possible reasons could be that booby species were less numerous in the late Miocene to Pliocene when gannets had their highest diversity, or that due to the more tropical distribution of boobies, many fossil species have simply not been found yet as most localities are in continental North America or Europe.
  • Sula humeralis (fossil; Middle Pliocene)
  • Sula sulita (fossil; Pisco Late Miocene of Peru)
  • Sula magna (fossil; Pisco Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of Peru)
Placement of "Sula" ronzoni (Early Oligocene of Ronzon, France) in this genus (and indeed in the Sulidae) is uncertain; it was initially described as a Mergus sea-duck, but this is incorrect. Later, it was proposed to be related to cormorants and the genus Prophalacrocorax was erected for it; this is erroneous (Olson 1985).


  • Friesen, V. L.; Anderson, D. J.; Steeves, T. E.; Jones, H. & Schreiber, E. A. (2002): Molecular Support for Species Status of the Nazca Booby (Sula granti). Auk 119(3): 820–826. [English with Spanish abstract] DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2002)119[0820:MSFSSO]2.0.CO;2 PDF fulltext


booby in Spanish: Sula
booby in Esperanto: Sulo
booby in French: Sula (oiseau)
booby in Korean: 부비 (동물)
booby in Polish: Sula (rodzaj)
booby in Portuguese: Sula (género)
booby in Russian: Олуши
booby in Vietnamese: Chim điên
booby in Tonga (Tonga Islands): Ngutulei

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

also-ran, asshole, bag, boob, boobs, bosom, breast, breasts, brisket, bust, chest, chump, crop, defeatee, ding-a-ling, dingbat, dingdong, dolt, dolthead, duck, dug, fall guy, fathead, galoot, game loser, good loser, good sport, goof, jerk, jerk-off, klutz, knockers, loser, mama, mamelon, mamelonation, mammary gland, mammilla, mammillation, mutt, nenes, nipple, oak, pap, papilla, pigeon breast, prize sap, sap, saphead, sawney, schlemiel, sport, stooge, teat, the vanquished, thorax, tit, tits, titties, titty, udder, underdog, victim
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