I came across this word and the most fitting definition in JMdict was the fifth one here.

What does it come from? None of the 擬*語 defined in JMdict describe a "green young man from a well-to-do family" in my opinion. There's also the French loanword ボンボン meaning sweets, so maybe that's related somehow.


According to 大辞林:

良家の若い息子。若だんな。ぼんち。 〔「育ちが良くて世間知らずだ」というニュアンスをこめて用いることもある。「-育ち」〕

And Wikipedia:


So it seems like ぼんぼん comes from 坊, or ぼう, ぼん, ぼうや.

  • 4
    BTW we pronounce it as [ぼんぼん]{LLHL}. ボンボン for sweets is [ボンボン]{HLLL}. – Chocolate May 25 '17 at 7:56
  • So was it originally 丁寧語 in some regions but duplicating the ぼん makes it an insult? – siikamiika May 25 '17 at 8:12
  • 2
    @siikamiika Yeah, I guess you're right... The article says ぼん is 丁寧語 in Kyoto, but I've never really felt it's polite/respectful, though it doesn't sound rude or offensive at all. And yes, ぼんぼん sounds rather like an insult and probably rude... 「ぼんぼん」は、バカにしている(making a fool of someone?)感じがします。 – Chocolate May 25 '17 at 8:26
  • Alright, I think I understand the word now. A bit like 「お前」 maybe? Thank you for the views! – siikamiika May 25 '17 at 8:30
  • 1
    @siikamiika おお・・ come to think of it, ぼん、ぼうや、ぼうず can be used to directly address someone (i.e. as the vocative case), but ぼんぼん is not used that way (we don't say like 「ちょっと、ぼんぼん、こっちおいで」)... We usually use ぼんぼん to refer to someone as the 3rd person, as in 「あの人、ええとこのぼんぼんやしなぁ・・・」「あそこの金持ちの家のぼんぼんが・・・」 – Chocolate May 25 '17 at 8:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.