What Does Boss Someone Around Mean?

Boss Someone Around Meaning

Definition: To give orders to another person rudely.

In the workplace, a boss gives orders to employees. This is normal. There may be other situations, however, where someone who is not your boss is giving you orders. This person is said to be bossing you around.

In other words, when someone who is not your boss and is not in charge of you is giving you orders and making demands of you, he or she is bossing you around.

Origin of Boss Someone Around

expression boss aroundIn the mid-1800s, Americans began using the word boss to describe someone with power.

They did not want to refer to their superiors as “master,” a word associated with slave drivers. Therefore, they took the word “boss” from the Dutch word “base,” which meant “master” in another language.

“Boss” is both a noun and a verb. To boss someone around is to dominate, master, or tell another person what to do.

Examples of Boss Someone Around

meaning of boss aroundMost people with older siblings have felt at some point that their siblings were bossing them around by telling them what to do. If a sister tells her younger brother to go get her a snack, he may yell back, “Stop bossing me around!”

This phrase may also be used in the form to “boss around.” When talking about a very strong-willed person, someone might say,

  • Only Michael can boss around Sam like that. Sam won’t take orders from anyone else.

Sometimes, to boss around describes poor leadership by a leader in the workplace. Employees may say that one manager is wonderful because she listens to their problems and helps them to find solutions, whereas their other manager is unpleasant because he just bosses them around.

More Examples

As chief executive, Thompson doesn’t boss around the newsroom, despite concerns early in his tenure about possible incursions. –Washington Post

“A constitutional expert said the compact could give Washington more latitude to boss around the states on border security issues, rather than empower states to do what they believe is necessary…” –Houston Chronicle


The phrase to boss someone around is to tell him or her what to do.