AskDefine | Define bogeyman

Dictionary Definition

bogeyman n : an imaginary monster used to frighten children [syn: bugbear, bugaboo, boogeyman, booger]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  1. A menacing, ghost-like monster in children's stories.
  2. In the context of "by extension": Any make-believe threat, especially one used to intimidate or distract.
    The alleged link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda turned out to be a bogeyman.


menacing, ghost-like monster in children's stories
  • Finnish: mörkö
any make-believe threat
  • Finnish: mörkö


Extensive Definition

The bogeyman, boogyman, bogyman, boogey monster, or boogeyman, is a folkloric or legendary ghostlike monster often believed in by children. The bogeyman has no specific appearance whatsoever, and can in fact vary drastically from household to household within the same community; in many cases he simply has no set appearance in the mind of a child, but is simply an amorphous embodiment of terror. Bogeyman can be used metaphorically to denote a person or thing of which someone has an irrational fear. Parents often say that if their child is naughty, the bogeyman will get them, in an effort to make them behave. The bogeyman legend may originate from Scotland, where such creatures are sometimes called bogles, boggarts, or bogies.
Bogeyman tales vary by region. In some places the bogeyman is male; in others, female. In some Midwestern states of the U.S. the bogeyman scratches at the window. In other places he hides under the bed or in the closet and tickles children when they go to sleep at night. It is said that a wart can be transmitted to someone by the bogeyman. (also the origin of the word bug). The words are linked to many similar words in other European languages, which may be cognates; bögge, böggel-mann (English "Bogeyman") (German), Buse (Nynorsk), bòcan, púca, pooka or pookha (Irish Gaelic), pwca, bwga or bwgan (Welsh), puki (Old Norse), pixie or piskie (Cornish), puck (English), bogu (Slavonic).

Other purported origins

In Southeast Asia the term is commonly accepted to refer to Bugis or Buganese pirates, ruthless seafarers of southern Sulawesi, Indonesia's third largest island. These pirates often plagued early English or Dutch trading ships, namely those of the British East India Company or Dutch East India Company. It is popularly believed that this resulted in the European sailors bringing their fear of the "bugi men" back to their home countries. However, etymologists disagree with this because words relating to bogeyman have been commonly used centuries before European colonisation of Southeast Asia and it is therefore unlikely that the Bugis would have been commonly known to westerners during that time.

Analogues in other cultures

Bogeyman-like beings are nearly universal; common to folklore in many disparate countries.
  • Azerbaijan - A boogeyman-like creature parents refer to make children behave is called khokhan ( "xoxan").
  • Brazil and Portugal- A similar creature with the same function (to scare misbehaving children) exists as the "Bag Man" (Portuguese: "homem do saco"). It is portrayed as an adult male, usually in the form of a bum, or a hobo, who carries a sack on his back (much like Santa Claus would), and collects mean disobedient children to sell. Parents may tell their kids that they will call the "Sack man" to collect them if they do not behave. A monster more akin to the Bogeyman is called "Bicho Papão" (Eating Beast).
  • Bulgaria - In Bulgaria children are sometimes told that a dark scary monster-like person called Torbalan (man-with-a-sack) will come and kidnap them with his large sack if they misbehave. In some villages people used to believe that a hairy, dark, ghost-like creature called a talasam (Tal-ah-SUHM) lived in the shadows of the barn or in the attic and came out at night to scare little children.
  • Czech Republic - Bubak or hastrman (Bugbear, scarecrow, respectively) is the Czech boogeyman; he is like Torbalan in being a man with a sack who takes children. He also, however, takes adults, and is known for hiding by riverbanks and making a sound like a lost baby, in order to lure the unwary. He weaves on nights of the full moon, making clothes for his stolen souls, and has a cart drawn by cats.
  • Denmark - The equivalent of the Bogeyman in Danish is bussemand. It hides under the bed and grabs children who will not sleep. Like the English, it is also a slang term for nasal mucus.
  • Finland - The equivalent of the Bogeyman in Finland is mörkö. The most famous usage of the word these days takes place in Moomin-stories (originally written in Swedish) in which mörkö (the Groke) is a frightening, dark blue, big, ghost-looking creature.
  • France - The French equivalent of the Bogeyman is le croque-mitaine ("the mitten-biter").
  • Germany - in Germany the Bogeyman is known as Der schwarze Mann (the black man) or the Butzemann. "Schwarz" does not refer to the color of skin but to his preference for hiding in dark places, like the closet, under the bed of children or in forests at night. There is also an active game for little children which is called Wer hat Angst vorm schwarzen Mann? (Who is afraid of the black man?).
  • Greece - in Greece the equivalent of the Bogeyman is known as Baboulas (Μπαμπούλας). Most of the times he is said to be hiding under the bed, although it is used by the parents in a variety of ways.
  • Hungary - "Rézfaszú bagoly" the word literally means "copper penis owl", the expression is often used to frighten kids when they do something wrong or just to have them fear something, usually the expression is used in the following context "the copper penis owl will take you away".
  • India - In India, the entity is known by different names.
    • North India - Children are sometimes threatened with the Bori Baba, who carries a sack (bori) in which he places children he captures. A similar character is the Chownki Daar, a night shift security guard who takes children who refuse to go to sleep.
    • South India - In the state of Tamil Nadu, children are often mock threatened with the Rettai Kannan (the two-eyed one) or Poochaandi. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, the equivalent of bogeyman is Buchadu.
  • Iran - In Persian culture, children who misbehave might be told by their parents to be afraid of lulu (لولو) who eats up the naughty children. Lulu is usually called lulu-khorkhore (bogeyman who eats everything up). The threat is generally used to make small children eat their meals.
  • Italy - The Italian equivalent of the Bogeyman is l'uomo nero ("the black man"), portrayed as a tall man wearing a heavy black coat, with a black hood or hat which hides his face. Sometimes, parents will knock loudly under the table, pretending that someone is knocking at the door, and saying: "Here comes l'uomo nero! He must know that there's a child here who doesn't want to drink his soup!" L'uomo nero is not supposed to eat or harm children, just take them away to a mysterious and frightening place. A popular lullaby says that he would keep a child with him "for a whole month". As the color black is associated with fascism in Italy, in adult language l'uomo nero is often used in political puns. Since the 1980s, "nero" has also replaced "negro" as a term for black-skinned people, so the expression "uomo nero" is also sometimes heard in racist puns. Another Italian equivalent of the Bogeyman is the Carthaginian general and statesman, Hannibal Barca. Hannibal was regarded as the greatest enemy Rome ever faced and thus became an important part of Roman culture. The threat he posed to Rome was so great that he became associated with fear and parents used him and still use him today as an instrument to reprimand or correct a misbehaving child, usually in the form "Behave well or Hannibal will come and get you".
  • Japan - Namahage are demons that warn children not to be lazy or cry, during the Namahage Sedo Matsuri, or "Demon Mask Festival", when villagers don demon masks and pretend to be these spirits.
  • Mexico - El Cucuy. "Social sciences professor Manuel Medrano said popular legend describes cucuy as a small humanoid with glowing red eyes that hides in closets or under the bed. 'Some lore has him as a kid who was the victim of violence ... and now he’s alive, but he’s not,' Medrano said, citing Xavier Garza’s 2004 book Creepy Creatures and other Cucuys."
  • Poland - in some regions, like Silesia or Great Poland, children are mock threatened with bebok (babok, bobok), a bogeyman-like creature from old Polish legends.
  • Quebec - in this French-speaking province, the Bonhomme Sept-Heures (7 o'clock man) is said to visit houses around 7 o'clock to take misbehaving children who will not go to bed back to his cave where he feasts on them.
  • Romania - in Romania the equivalent of the Bogeyman is known as bau-bau (pronuonced "bow-bow"). Bau-bau stories are used by parents to scare children who misbehave.
  • Russia - usually said to be hiding under the bed, babay ("бабай") is used to keep children in bed or stop them from misbehaving. 'Babay' means 'old man' in Tatar. Children are told that "babay" is an old man with a bag or a monster, and that it will take them away if they misbehave.
  • Spain - The Spanish Bogeyman is known as El Cuco, or, more often in Spain, El Coco (also named in some parts of Spain as El Ogro), a shapeless figure, sometimes a hairy monster, that eats children that misbehave when they are told to go to bed. Parents will sing lullabies or tell rhymes to the children warning them that if they don't sleep, El Coco will come and get them. The rhyme originated in the 17th century has evolved over the years, but still retaining its original meaning. The term is also used in Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. The aforementioned Brazilian "Bag Man" also exists here in the form of the Hombre del Saco or Hombre de la bolsa, who is usually depicted as a mean and impossibly ugly and skinny old man who eats the misbehaving children he collects.
  • Sweden - in Sweden the Bogeyman is referred to either as Monstret under sängen which essentially means "the monster under the bed", or Svarta mannen; "the Black man".
  • Slovenia The Slovenian Bogeyman is called Bavbav. It doesn't have a particular shape or form. Many times it isn't even defined as a man or anything human. It can be thought of as a kind of sprite or spirit although the word "spirit" also doesn't give it justice.
  • Switzerland - in Switzerland the Bogeyman is called Böögg and has an important role in the springtime ceremonies. The figure is the symbol of winter and death, so in Sechseläuten ceremony in the City of Zürich, where a figure of the Böögg is burnt.
  • Turkey - in Turkey there is an old lullaby about a creature called Dunganga, who puts misbehaving children in its basket and takes them back to its cave to be eaten.
  • Ukraine - eastern part of Ukraine has babay, possibly due to Russian influence (see entry for Russia above).
  • Vietnam - ông ba bị (in the North - literally mister-three-bags) or ông kẹ (in the South) is used to make small children eat their meals or to scare children who misbehave, usually in a mock-threatening way.

In popular culture

Popular portrayals of bogeymen include Raymond Briggs' Fungus the Bogeyman. Babes in Toyland (1934 film) based on Victor Herbert's 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland, portrays criminals exiled to Bogeyland. The Bogeymen are described as "horrible creatures; with hair all over their body and great big teeth where they eat you alive".
Classic rock band AC/DC recorded a song entitled "Boogie Man" for their 1995 album Ballbreaker.
Canadian Thrash band Annihilator debuted with an album titled Alice in Hell, the opening track is about the story of a girl driven insane through fear of "the bogey man".
The Boogeyman is a short story by Stephen King, in which a man attempts to get himself committed to an asylum after his family is murdered by the Boogeyman.
"The Bogeyman" was a recurring villain in the successful 1980s children's cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters.
In 1999 Disney's TV Movie Don't Look Under the Bed, the main character, Frances Bacon, is framed for a series of practical jokes by the Bogeyman. She gets help from an imaginary friend named Larry.
In The Nightmare Before Christmas, the bogeyman is called Oogie Boogie, an animated sack of bugs who enjoys gambling.
In Terry Pratchett's Discworld, bogeymen are depicted as tall, rangy, hairy beings who are vaguely apish. They hide under beds, behind doors, and in closets, for no reason anyone can understand. The first bogeyman says, that they protect the children from evil things. Bad ones can easily be defeated by putting a blanket over their head.
A renowned reference of the Bogeyman in popular fiction is shown in the 1978 Horror hit Halloween. At the end of the movie, when the famous psychopath Michael Myers is shot and falls off a balcony, one of the characters states: "It WAS the Boogeyman..." to which her saviour Donald Pleasance replies "As a matter of fact... it was"
The film Monsters Inc. portrays bogeymen as workers for their local power-utility company, who harvest children's screams as a source of power.
In The Simpsons episode $pringfield, when Lisa wakes from a bad dream of the boogeyman, a gun-toting Homer hides himself and the children behind a mattress in terror, shooting from his cover at anything he thinks might be the boogeyman (or boogeymen!). Also the boogeyman is a minor character in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. The Boogieman makes an appearance in The Powerpuff Girls as the disco dancing ruler of darkness, who temporarily managed to blot out the sun with an enormous disco ball.
WWE wrestler Marty Wright uses a Boogeyman gimmick.
Detroit rap duo Insane Clown Posse recorded a song called "Boogie Woogie Wu", but was about a man that sneaks into children's bedrooms at night and kills them.


External links

bogeyman in German: Butzemann
bogeyman in Spanish: Bogeyman
bogeyman in Esperanto: Infanvorulo
bogeyman in Persian: لولوخورخوره
bogeyman in Finnish: Mörkö
bogeyman in French: croque-mitaine
bogeyman in French: Bonhomme sept-heures
bogeyman in Italian: Boogeyman
bogeyman in Japanese: ブーギマン
bogeyman in Dutch: Boeman
bogeyman in Norwegian Nynorsk: buse
bogeyman in Polish: Bebok
bogeyman in Portuguese: Papão
bogeyman in Russian: Бабай
bogeyman in Yiddish: באגי מען

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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