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.


1 Answer 1


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
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 7:56
  • So was it originally 丁寧語 in some regions but duplicating the ぼん makes it an insult?
    – siikamiika
    Commented May 25, 2017 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
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 8:26
  • Alright, I think I understand the word now. A bit like 「お前」 maybe? Thank you for the views!
    – siikamiika
    Commented May 25, 2017 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
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 8:41

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