AskDefine | Define tomboy

Dictionary Definition

tomboy n : a girl who behaves in a boyish manner [syn: romp, hoyden]

User Contributed Dictionary



First attested in 1553 when it originally meant a “boisterous boy”, later in 1579 when it came to mean an “immodest woman”, and then finally in 1592 it developed its modern meaning of a “girl who acts like a boy”; from Tom, familiar form of Thomas + boy, “male child”.


  • a UK /ˈtɒmbɔɪ/


  1. A girl who behaves in a typically boyish manner.




A girl who acts as a typical boy would
  • Finnish: poikatyttö
  • French: garçon manqué
  • Greek: αγοροκόριτσο

Extensive Definition

Tomboy is a term that refers to a girl who behaves according to the gender role of a boy. This social phenomenon typically manifests itself through some of these characteristics:
  • The wearing of typically masculine-oriented types of clothes.
  • The practice of games and activities (often physical in nature) that are typically considered to be the domain of boys.
  • Heterosociality, the preference to befriend boys rather than other girls.
They are the opposite of fashionistas and girly girls.

Word history

The word has been recorded to be used in the English language since 1553, primarily to describe a "rude, boisterous boy", from Tom (a common boys' name as in 'Tommy', meaning soldier) + boy; the meaning "bold or immodest woman" is attested from 1579; the present use is first recorded in 1592.


There is a perceived correlation between tomboys and lesbianism. While it is true that some tomboys later reveal a lesbian identity in their adolescent or adult years, masculine behavior typical of boys but displayed by girls is not a true indicator of one's sexual orientation. "Throughout their history, tomboys have had to contend with the stigma of presumed lesbianism or the accusation of wanting to be male. Both assumptions were categorically refuted by twentieth-century psychology, which established the normalcy of the tomboy experience among girls of all identities. However, for many, the tomboy stage is the first manifestation of a gender-fluid life journey".


There has been little study of the causality of women's behavior and interests, when they do not conform to the female social gender role, since it has been considered, first and foremost, to be a phase one might go through in early years of life. It is unclear whether there is any correlation between these behaviors, and whether the causes are any different from what causes men to exhibit the same behaviors such as dress, or an interest in mathematics and science. One report from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children suggests that preschool girls engaging in "masculine-typical" gender-role behavior, such as playing with toys typically preferred by boys, is influenced by genetic and prenatal factors.
tomboy in German: Tomboy
tomboy in Korean: 톰보이
tomboy in Indonesian: Tomboi
tomboy in Italian: Maschiaccio
tomboy in Dutch: Tomboy
tomboy in Japanese: お転婆
tomboy in Polish: Chłopczyca
tomboy in Portuguese: Maria-rapaz
tomboy in Finnish: Poikatyttö
tomboy in Swedish: Pojkflicka

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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