What is the Origin of the Word "Boss"?

Last Updated Oct 17, 2007 12:09 AM EDT

Boss image by Night Time Strife [cc, 2.0]My fellow bloggers over at BNET Intercom have revealed some fun facts about National Boss Day (which is today, by the way, lest you forget to buy your boss a box of chocolates or a bottle of the finest cabernet). Few of us, however, know the origins of the word "boss." Why do we call our superiors the big "boss," and when did it became a part of the everyday English lexicon?

Boss is Dutch in origin and is a bastardization of the Dutch "base." Its use was a uniquely American way of avoiding the word "master," which had quickly become associated with slavery by the mid-19th century. Of course, bosses are far from slave drivers (though I know a few people who would love to argue that point), so the new Dutch word was a convenient moniker for the rising capitalistic equivalent of the corporate figurehead.

Urban workers were fond of using 'boss' primarily because they despised calling their superior 'master.' Ironically, all the effort was in vain. The meaning of the Dutch word, "base" is "master." And it all comes back full circle...

Boss image by Night Time Strife [cc, 2.0]