What Does Busybody Mean?

Busybody Meaning

Definition: A person who tries to learn about the private lives of other people.

Origin of Busybody

This term has a negative connotation and dates all the way back to the 1500s. It comes from the definition of busy meaning meddlesome or prying and body meaning person. Busy in this sense is now obsolete outside of this idiom.

Busybodies could try to pry into the affairs of others in many ways. They could directly ask personal questions to various individuals in an attempt to gain private information. Also, they might ask others for gossip about other individuals and could even spy on people.

Because busybody is not a polite thing to call someone, it is best to avoid doing so.

Examples of Busybody

busybody definitionIn this example, two sisters are discussing a prying neighbor who lives across the street from them.

Amy: I’m so sick of Linda always asking such personal questions every time we go outside at the same time.

Kimberly: Me too! She is always trying to find out where my boyfriend is, why he hasn’t shown up around the house so often, and all other sorts of information I have no interest in sharing with her.

Amy: I sometimes catch her looking at us through the window from her yard!

Kimberly: She is such an out of control busybody! She needs to focus on herself and stop trying to meddle in our lives.

what is a busybodyIn the second example, two friends are at the gym.

Keira: That guy over there on the treadmill is a huge busybody.

Rory: Why do you say that?

Keira: He kept asking me question after question about my name, my job, my hobbies, my family, and all sorts of other nonsense! I kept answering with one-word responses, but he was too meddlesome to stop talking to me.

Rory: Maybe he just wanted to be friendly.

Keira: You shouldn’t interrogate someone if you are trying to be friendly. I even overheard him asking my personal trainer for more information about me!

More Examples

This excerpt is from a review of an HBO show.

  • The group of women includes Madeline Mackenzie (Witherspoon), a know-it-all busybody who is trying to cope with the resentment she feels about her eldest daughter’s growing relationship with her ex-husband’s second wife, Bonnie Carlson (Kravitz), a twentysomething yoga instructor with a strong moral compass. –LA Times

This excerpt is from a movie review.

  • It’s a twist on the “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” concept that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie perfected back in 2005, but instead of hiding their top-secret lives of international espionage and covert operations from each other, the Joneses are trying to hide from their busybody neighbors. –LA Times


The term busybody is a negative term for a meddlesome person who tries to learn private information about others.