Boss – definition and meaning

A boss is a person who is in charge of other people. He or she may be overseeing just one person, two people, a group of individuals, a department, a company, or even a group of companies. My bosses are the people who give me orders at work – they tell me what to do.

If John is a supervisor in an office, and is in charge of Paul and nobody else, he is Paul’s boss. The Finance Director of the world’s largest company considers the CEO (Chief Executive Office) as his or her boss.

The word is not a formal title. People who employ or superintend workers are their bosses. They make decisions and exercise authority over them.

Remember that bosses are also human beings – they have their preferences and dislikes. If you play your cards well you should be able to work not only for them but also with them. Learning how to manage your boss may be a factor in determining your promotion prospects.

It means the same as chief, honcho, governor (UK: pronounced ‘guvnor’) and immediate superior. It can sometimes mean supervisor, manager, director, leader, head, dean, captain, overseer or commander.

The word can replace ‘Sir’ in the following example: Instead of saying “Yes, sir,” you can say “Yes, boss,” with the same meaning.

Originated from Middle Dutch ‘baes’

The term appeared in the English language during the 1600s in America, and came from the Dutch bass ‘a master’, which originated from Middle Dutch baes. Its origin before that is obscure. Some say it may have come from Old High German basa meaning ‘aunt’, but other experts disagree.

In the 1620s, the Dutch form baas was the standard title of a Dutch ship’s captain.

During the 1600s, the use of ‘master’ among egalitarians in America was avoided. Americans also wanted to distinguish slave labor from free labor. Boss emerged as a term for the master of non-slave workers.

A good boss must have
An excellent boss should tap into talents and resources in order to support and bring out the best in the people he or she is in charge of. A positive attitude is crucial – excitement can be contagious. Optimistic bosses with a passion for their work help keep morale high.

Today, the word boss with its modern meaning of overseer, manager, chief or supervisor is as commonly used in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and other native English-speaking nations as it is in the United States and Canada.

According to, a boss is:

“An individual that is usually the immediate supervisor of some number of employees and has certain capacities and responsibilities to make decisions.”

“The term itself is not a formal title, and is sometimes used to refer to any higher level employee in a company, including a supervisor, manager, director, or the CEO.”

Other meanings of boss

As a verb it means to tell somebody or people what to do, to give orders. It is often used in a negative, derogatory or complaining way, as in “He bosses us around the whole time. I’ve had enough!”

Somebody who likes giving orders and does so may be described as bossy. When we say that somebody is bossy, it is usually a criticism.

– To Show Somebody Who’s Boss means to make clear who has the power, or to stop letting the other person or people get the upper hand. As in “When you are in charge of a group of children it is very important to show them who’s boss.”

– A Straw Boss is a worker who supervises other workers as well as carrying out his or her own regular duties – a subordinate boss.

– “You’re the boss,” is a common expression used by somebody who has been given an order. It means that the order will be carried out. It may be used when the person being given the order might think it was unwise or wrong, but it will be obeyed regardless.

– “It was a boss party,” means it was a great, excellent party – I really enjoyed it. It is hardly ever used in this way in the United Kingdom.

Theodore Roosevelt quote using the word BossTheodore Roosevelt Jr. (1858-1919), the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909, who apart from being a statesman was also a soldier, naturalist, explorer and author, once said: “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” (Image:

– A Girl Boss may have several different meanings. Most commonly it refers to somebody who knows her worth and prioritizes her standards. She takes no sh*t from any guy. She never settles for anything less than what she believes she deserves.

She is extremely ambitions. She works hard to realize all her dreams, no matter what doors she has to kick open in order to get there

According to STYLEDBYALE:

“Part of being a girls boss is knowing that it’s okay to cry, feel frustrated and feel like giving up, but NEVER doing so; instead she gets up and tries again and again until she gets to where she knows she needs to be.”

“A girl boss is someone who can do just as good with you as she can do without you. This title is definitely one I have always worked hard to strive and keep.”

Boss in other languages: jefe (Spanish), patron (French), Chef (German, Swedish, Danish, ), patrão (Portuguese), capo (Italian), босс (Russian), sjef (Norwegian), baas (Dutch), ボス (Japanese), 老板 (Chinese), رئيس (Arabic), and bos (Indonesian).

Lee Iacocca quoteLee Iacocca is an Automobile executive, famous for spearheading the development of Ford Mustang and Pinto cars while working for the Ford Motor Company during the 1960s. In the 1980s, as the CEO of the Chrysler Corporation, he revived the company. (Image:

Boss in engineering

In the world of engineering, it may refer to a protruding feature on a work piece. It is commonly used to locate one object within a hole or pocket of another object. For example, some motors use a precisely-machined boss on the front face to locate it on the matching part.

Bosses on castings – like a process on a bone – can provide attachment points or bearing surfaces.

In engineering jargon, bosses may also refer to the finishing edges usually around circular openings that allow the opening to locate onto (or within) another opening thus locating or joining two items together.

The housing of the rotation spindle in a washing machine drum is a common everyday example of a boss.

Video – Difference between a boss and a leader

Sometimes the word boss may be used negatively, as is the case in this video, which conveys a ‘leader’ in a much better light. It depends on how you interpret the word and its context.