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A boy or boy or boy , isolated also Bursch (e) or Jack, is a young person of the male sex who has not yet reached adulthood, so a male child or a male teenager .

Boy in spain
Four older boys in Ethiopia
Boys in Germany performing a puppet show

Names and Etymology

The word Junge is used today in Germany as a supra-regional word form; outside of Switzerland , Knabe is out of date as a high-level language form. In the dialects, the two word forms Bub and Junge show a clear dichotomy, in which in the south up to and including the Hunsrück, Westerwald, Vogelsberg, Thuringian Forest and Franconian Forest, 'boys' are spoken of, but to the north of that 'boys'. Occasionally, especially in the Rhine-Main area, the Latin boy (e) can also be found in the general meaning for boys and young men. Kerle is at home in an island on the Alb , in Baden and in Thuringian-Upper Saxon dialect, Bengel was only to be found on a Pomeranian island. Further synonyms are Hessian pen (today means more of a trainee in an office job); Frisian also appears Dreng borrowed from Danish and Boss from Upper Franconia .


Knabe, the originally high-level word, has - as an unusual case - no anchoring in the dialects. It is only mentioned once in Late High German as knabo , but also appears as knave in Middle English . In Middle High German and hard denominated existed scarce ( ahd.  Knappo ), the first again gave the same connotation, but their significance to later Edelknaben and miners narrowed. The word also corresponded to the terms boy or servant used today , as it has been preserved in the term whipping boy for a scapegoat, but also in the phrase old boy . In Old English there is in strict age order cnapa cild, cniht (see. Modern English child , child 'and knight , knights' to the latter also German Knecht ).

Knabe has been the standard name for Upper German until modern times , and in Switzerland it still functions as a high-level language. Recently, however, it can only be found dialectically in this function in the Tyrolean Lechtal , also in dialectic Swiss German only Bueb occurs, whereas Chnaab is limited to a few combinations (see Knabenschießen ). In literary terms, it was in use outside Switzerland until the 19th century (compare, for example, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff's ballad The Boy in the Moor ); as a general term, it is used later in compounds such as boys ' and girls' schools .


Junge is also passed down from Old High German as jungo and is used like boy and boy in the sense of ' servant , apprentice ' (goose-young, kitchen-young, dog-young, stable-young) .

Junker, mhd.  Juncherre  for 'young gentleman , squire' still appears as a title of nobility .

In the name of youth , ahd.  Young ling , is always something pure , Blank makeltes mitgemeint (originally, unmarried ', similar to Virgin and bachelor ). The literary reception of the 'young man' falls mainly in the period between Sturm und Drang and Biedermeier . As a result of their lack of interest in phenomena before 1850, youth sociology ( Karl Mannheim , Helmut Schelsky , Ludwig von Friedeburg , even Howard P. Becker ) and youth psychology are almost fundamentally silent . Examples are z. B. the Hyperion by Holderlin and the Ferdinand in Kabale und Liebe by Schiller . In the visual arts, the youth is depicted iconographically as beardless (cf. Kouros ).

Upper Franconian ceremony is a " hyper correct adoptive Form" by coincidence of "j" and "g" initial vowel.

Jack and Boy

Bube is found in Middle High German  buobe , it is common in all West Germanic languages , the origin is unknown. A Lall form is assumed to mhd.  Bru or  for ' brother ' (similar to the much younger Papa / Mama to originally Latin pater / mater ), as also contemporary nicknames such as Puopo, Puabo, Buobo, Bôbo suggest. A connection with English boy is possible, but the origin of this word is also unclear. Originally boy was used in the sense of ' slave ', the meaning 'boy' seems to be of a more recent date.

Today the word is in the form of boy in Austria, South Tyrol, Switzerland, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, the Palatinate and South Hesse the common expression for male children and young people, while it was never at home in northern Germany. In High German the word does not apocopy (loss of the Middle High German noun ending "-e"), but it does in spoken language, so that there the High German form Bube appears graceful and never describes the boy as such: In the dialect the basic form is Bavarian Bua (also largely Austrias), Pl. Buam (a) - with variations Upper Franconian Bou, Palatine Bu in the north; Eastern Austrian (Weinviertel) Bui; South Bavarian Pui, but South Tyrolean Büob / Büab, Pl. Büobm; alemannisch Bueb, Büeb . In Switzerland, Bub is also used in writing alongside Knabe .

, Jack 'from the beginning is also pejorative in use, and in ancient compositions such as rogue , rascal , knavery or mischievous unworthy of the word is to mean without honor, a man.' The diminutive (such as Bübchen, Bübli, Bubi, Bubsch ) are mostly pet forms .

In Wanders German Proverbs Lexicon there are almost a hundred proverbs about jack (and words that are combined with them), for example many bad boys get away with it .

Other forms

While boy (s) and guy have a purely social relationship, boy, but also boss, urchin, pen, dreng is etymologically sexually annotated, they all relate to the male sexual organ:

Perception in public and research

At the beginning of the 1980s, boys came into focus as an independent gender-related target group. The gender-related forms of expression and coping, especially of the male lower-class youth, could no longer be adequately explained and taken up pedagogically using the class-related approaches that were common at the time.

With the widespread acceptance of the women's movement and feminist ideas, massive criticism of the traditional ideas of masculinity and - especially in youth welfare - also of "the" boys and the behavior of boys that were perceived as impairing the life situation of girls began. Since the 1990s, boys' living conditions and situations have been increasingly scientifically surveyed and researched. It turned out that the reflective observation of boys is indispensable for the understanding of gender-related characteristics and for the professional work with them. This also gave rise to demands for work with boys and the gradual development of this specialist discipline. Lothar Böhnisch , Gunter Neubauer, Jürgen Budde and Reinhard Winter are considered to be experts on topics for boys in German-speaking countries .

As part of the results of the PISA studies and other school performance studies, a “boy crisis” has been postulated in the media since the 2000s, with boys being portrayed as a homogeneous problem group and as “educational losers” (e.g. Die Zeit 2007: Die Crisis der kleine Men , Der Spiegel 2004: Smart Girls - Stupid Boys or Focus 2002: Poor Boys! ). The media discourse is criticized in science. One cannot speak of a “boy crisis”, the media debate conceals differences between boys and aspects such as social origin and ethnicity. Several books have also appeared on this subject, but they also met with scientific criticism.


  • Jürgen Budde, Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Ed.): Educational (fail) successes of boys and career choice behavior among boys. Bonn / Berlin 2008.
  • Federal Center for Health Education: Boys. Sexual Education Forum, Issue 1, 2008.
  • Norbert Kühne : Girls and Boys - Development, Upbringing, Identity. In: Praxisbuch Sozialpädagogik. Bildungsverlag EINS, Troisdorf 2010; ISBN 978-3-427-75416-9 .
  • Ruth Michalek: Well, we boys are ...: Gender concepts of primary school students. Münster / New York / Munich / Berlin 2006.
  • Ernst Erhard Müller : Synchrony - diachrony using an example from the history of words: boy, boy, boy. In: Language of the Present. Writings of the Institute for the German Language 5, 1968, 129–146.
  • Josef Petrik: Boy's wisdom . Manual for groups of the Catholic youth group in Austria. 6th edition, Vienna 1960.
  • Gisela Preuschoff, Axel Preuschoff: Poor guys. What parents who have sons should know. PapyRossa, Cologne 2004.
  • Bernhard Stier, Reinhard Winter (ed.): Boys and health. An interdisciplinary handbook for medicine, psychology and education. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2013.
  • Gabriele Strobel-Eisele, Klaudia Schultheis, Thomas Fuhr: Children: Male gender: educational boy research. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2006.
  • Reinhard Winter : Boys: Instructions for use. Understand and support boys. Beltz, Weinheim and Basel 2011, ISBN 978-3-407-85931-0 .

Web links

Commons : Boys  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Junge  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Boy  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. First round - boy / boy . In: Atlas of German Everyday Language (AdA), Phil.-Hist. Faculty, University of Augsburg, November 10, 2005.
  2. a b c d e Werner König: dtv-Atlas German language . 1st edition. dtv tape 3025 . dtv, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-423-03025-9 , boy / girl , p. 167 , col. Early loan denominations with neighboring peoples (distribution map Junge / Bua / Kerle p. 166).
  3. BOY, m. puer . In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm : German Dictionary . Hirzel, Leipzig 1854–1961 ( , University of Trier).
  4. KNABE, II. 1. c in a stricter designation of age, we distinguish between child and boy . In: Grimm: German dictionary. Hirzel, Leipzig 1854–1961 ( , University of Trier).
  5. ^ Hans Bickel , Christoph Landolt : Swiss High German. Dictionary of the standard language in German-speaking Switzerland. 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition, published by the Swiss Association for the German Language. Dudenverlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-411-70418-7 , p. 51.
  6. Schweizerisches Idiotikon , Vol. III 709 ff., Article Chnab .
  7. BOY, m. adolescentulus, puer . In: Grimm: German dictionary. Hirzel, Leipzig 1854–1961 ( , University of Trier).
  8. JUNGE 2) in the nhd., Boy initially means a young person in a position of service or a job learning to trade. In: Grimm: German dictionary. Hirzel, Leipzig 1854–1961 ( , University of Trier).
  9. YOUTH, m. juvenis . In: Grimm: German dictionary. Hirzel, Leipzig 1854–1961 ( , University of Trier).
  10. BUBE, m. puer, boy, in gen. and pl. boys . In: Grimm: German dictionary. Hirzel, Leipzig 1854–1961 ( , University of Trier).
  11. Schweizerisches Idiotikon , Vol. IV, Sp. 925 ff., Article Bueb .
  12. ^ Hans Bickel, Christoph Landolt: Swiss High German. Dictionary of the standard language in German-speaking Switzerland. 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition, published by the Swiss Association for the German Language. Dudenverlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-411-70418-7 , p. 25.
  13. Wanders Deutsches Sprich emphasis-Lexikon, Vol. 1, p. 495.
  14. M. Brunke: On gender-specific work with boys - report on work with boys in the Wannseeheim for youth work in Berlin. In: Neuer Rundbrief 2/3, 1981, Berlin.
  15. M. Savier, C. Wildt: Girls between adaptation and resistance. New approaches to feminist youth work. Munich 1978.
  16. L. Böhnisch, R. Winter: Male socialization. Coping problems with male gender identity in the résumé. Weinheim / Munich 1993.
  17. P. Zimmermann: Boy, boy! Theories on gender-typical socialization and results of a boy survey. Dortmund 1998
  18. Reinhard Winter, Gunter Neubauer: Competent, authentic and normal? Educational health problems, sex education and advice for boys. In: BZGA specialist booklet series, vol. 14, Cologne 1998.
  19. z. B. with regard to health aspects: Bernhard Stier / Reinhard Winter (eds.): Jungs und Gesundheit, Stuttgart 2013
  20. ^ Margit Stamm: Underachievement of boys: Perspectives of an international discourse . In: Journal for Pedagogy . 11, No. 1, March 2008, pp. 106-124. doi: 10.1007 / s11618-008-0006-6 .
  21. Barbara Koch-Priewe , Arne Niederbacher, Annette Textor and Peter Zimmermann: Boys - Problem Children or Winner? Results of a quantitative study . VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-531-91463-3 , p. 10 f. doi : 10.1007 / 978-3-531-91463-3_1 .
  22. ^ Anne Watson, Michael Kehler and Wayne Martino: The Problem of Boys' Literacy Underachievement: Raising Some Questions . In: Journal of Adolescent & Adelt Literacy . 53, No. 5, February 2010, pp. 356-361. doi: 10.1598 / JAAL.53.5.1 .
  23. Emma Smith: Failing boys and moral panics: perpectives on the underachievement debate . In: British Journal of Educational Studies . 51, No. 3, Summer 2003, pp. 282-295. doi: 10.1111 / 1467-8527.t01-2-00239 .
  24. ^ Jordan J. Titus, Boy Trouble: Rhetorical framing of boys' underachievement . In: Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education . 25, No. 2, 2004, pp. 145-169. doi: 10.1080 / 01596300410001692120 .
  25. Christine Griffith: Discourses of Crisis and Loss: Analyzing the 'Boys' Underachievement' Debate . In: Journal of Youth Studies . 3, No. 2, 2000, pp. 167-188. doi: 10.1080 / 713684373 .
  26. Victoria Foster, Michael Kimmel and Christine Skelton: 'What about the boys?' An overview of the debates . In: Wayne Martino and Bob Meyenn (Eds.) What about the boys? Issues of masculinity in schools . Open University Press, Buckingham 2001, ISBN 0-335-20624-7 , pp. 1-23.
  27. Susann Fegter: Phenomenon structure of the boy crisis: Discursive regularities and the importance of the speaker position in the media thematization 1999–2009. In: Reiner Keller, Inga Truschkat (Ed.): Methodology and practice of the knowledge-sociological discourse analysis . Volume 1: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2013, ISBN 978-3-531-93340-5 , pp. 113-134. doi : 10.1007 / 978-3-531-93340-5_5 .
  28. Susan Fegter: The Crisis of Boys in Education and Upbringing. Discursive construction of gender and masculinity . VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2012.
  29. ^ Federal Youth Board of Trustees : Smart Girls - Stupid Boys? Against foreshortening in the current gender discourse ( memento of November 9, 2013 in the Internet Archive ). Statement by the Federal Youth Board of Trustees. Munich 2009.