For other uses, see Bogeyman (disambiguation).
Goya's Que viene el Coco ("Here Comes the Bogeyman / The Boogeyman is Coming") c. 1797

Bogeyman (usually spelled boogeyman in the U.S.; also spelled bogieman or boogie man; see American and British English spelling differences), pronounced /bʊɡimæn/ or /bɡimæn/,[1] is a common allusion to a mythical creature in many cultures used by adults to frighten children into good behavior. This monster has no specific appearance, and conceptions about it can vary drastically from household to household within the same community; in many cases, he has no set appearance in the mind of an adult or child, but is simply a non-specific embodiment of terror. Parents may tell their children that if they misbehave, the bogeyman will get them. Bogeymen may target a specific mischief—for instance, a bogeyman that punishes children who suck their thumbs—or general misbehaviour, depending on what purpose needs serving. In some cases, the bogeyman is a nickname for the Devil. Bogeyman tales vary by region. The bogeyman is usually a masculine entity, but can be any gender, or simply be androgynous.


The word bogey is believed to be derived from the Middle English bogge / bugge ("hobgoblin") and is generally thought to be a cognate of the German bögge, böggel-mann (English "Bogeyman").[2] The word could also be linked to many similar words in other European languages: bogle (Scots), boeman (Dutch), Butzemann (German), busemann (Norwegian), bøhmand / bussemand (Danish), bòcan, púca, pooka or pookha (Irish), pwca, bwga or bwgan (Welsh), puki (Old Norse), pixie or piskie (Cornish), puck (English), mumus (Hungarian), bogu (Slavonic), buka (Russian, бука), bauk (Serbian), bubulis (Latvian), baubas (Lithuanian), bobo (Polish), bebok (Silesian), papão (Portuguese), торбалан (Bulgarian), Μπαμπούλας (Greek), bua (Georgian, ბუა), babau (Italian), baubau (Romanian), and papu (Catalan).[3]

A related word, bugbear, from bug, meaning goblin or scarecrow, and bear, was imagined as a demon in the form of a bear that eats small children, and was also used to mean a general object of dread.[4] The word bugaboo, with a similar pair of meanings, may have arisen as an alteration of bugbear.[5]

Other putative origins

In Southeast Asia, the term is popularly supposed to refer to Bugis[6] or Buganese[7] pirates, ruthless seafarers of southern Sulawesi, Indonesia's third-largest island. These pirates often plagued early English and Dutch trading ships of the British East India Company and 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 were in common use centuries before European colonization of Southeast Asia and it is unlikely that the Bugis would have been commonly known to westerners during that time.

Analogs in other cultures

Bogeyman-like beings are almost universal, common to the folklore of many countries.

Sack Man

Main article: Sack Man

In many countries, a bogeyman variant is portrayed as a man with a sack on his back who carries naughty children away. This is true for many Latin countries, such as Brazil, Portugal, Spain, and the countries of Spanish America, where he is referred to as el "Hombre del costal", el "hombre del saco", or in Portuguese, o "homem do saco" (all of which mean "the sack/bag man"), or el roba-chicos, meaning child-stealer. Similar legends are also very common in Eastern Europe, as well as in Haiti and some countries in Asia.

El Coco

Main article: Coco (folklore)

El Coco (also El Cuco and Cucuy, sometimes called El Bolo) is a monster common to many Spanish-speaking countries.

In Spain, parents will sing lullabies or tell rhymes to children, warning them that if they do not sleep, El Coco will come and get them. The rhyme originated in the 17th century has evolved over the years, but still retains its original meaning. Coconuts (Spanish: coco) received that name because their brownish hairy surface reminded Portuguese explorers of coco, a ghost with a pumpkin head. Latin America also has El Coco, although its folklore is usually quite different, commonly mixed with native beliefs, and, because of cultural contacts, sometimes more related to the boogeyman of the United States. However, the term El Coco is also used in Spanish-speaking Latin American countries, such as Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, although there it is more usually called El Cuco, as in Puerto Rico, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. Among Mexican-Americans, El Cucuy is portrayed as an evil monster that hides under children's beds at night and kidnaps or eats the child that does not obey his/her parents or go to sleep when it is time to do so. However, the Spanish American bogeyman does not resemble the shapeless or hairy monster of Spain: social sciences professor Manuel Medrano says popular legend describes El 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."[8]

In Brazilian folklore, a similar character called Cuca is depicted as a female humanoid alligator. There's a famous lullaby sung by most parents to their children that says that the Cuca will come and get them if they do not sleep, just as in Spain. The Cuca is also a character of Monteiro Lobato's Sítio do Picapau Amarelo, a series of short novels written for children which contain a large number of characters from Brazilian folklore.


"Babau" redirects here. For other uses, see Babau (disambiguation).

In the countries of the eastern Mediterranean, children who misbehave are threatened with a creature known as "babau" (or "baubau", "baobao", "bavbav", or similar). In Italy and Romania, the Babau (in Romania, Bau-bau) is also called l'uomo nero (Romanian: omul negru) or "black man". In Italy, he is 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 say something like: "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 year".[9] In Slovenia, the "Bavbav" is described as a formless spirit. In Greece and Cyprus, the equivalent of the Bogeyman is known as Baboulas (Greek: Μπαμπούλας). Typically, he is said to be hiding under the bed, although the details of his story is adapted by the parents in a variety of ways. In Egypt "al-Bu'bu'" (البعبع) is often depicted as a night creature dressed in black who haunts children that misbehave.


In Germanic countries, the bogeyman is called the butzemann, busseman, buhman, or boeman. In Germany, the bogeyman is known as the "Buhmann" or the Butzemann. The common German expression is "der schwarze Mann" ("the black man" in English), which refers to an inhuman creature which hides in the dark corners under the bed or in the closet, and carries children away. The figure is part of the children's game "Wer hat Angst vorm schwarzen Mann?" ("Who is afraid of the bogeyman?").

In Denmark, the creature is known as the bussemand or bøhmand. It hides under the bed and grabs children who will not sleep. As in English, bussemand is also a slang term for nasal mucus. In Norway, he is referred to as the Busemann. In the Netherlands, the Boeman is portrayed as a creature that resembles a man, dressed completely black, with sharp claws and fangs. He hides under the bed or in the closet. The Bogeyman takes bad children or those that refuse to sleep and locks them in his basement for a period of time.

In the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, used in those areas of Pennsylvania colonized by Swiss and Germanic peoples during the eighteenth century, "der Butzemann" is the term for a male scarecrow. A female scarecrow is a "Butzefrau".

Other examples

Plaque at Itum Bahal, Kathmandu showing Gurumapa

In modern culture

As with many ancient legends, the Bogeyman has seen a rekindled popularity in modern media, including media aimed at children. Such revisited modern versions, contributing to the constant evolution of the myth, include those listed below.







See also

Notes and references

  1. Safire, William (1 February 2004). "Bogeyman or boogeyman? If mispronounced, he's gonna getcha!". New York Times News Service. Taipei Times. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  2. "bug". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  3. Cooper, Brian. "Lexical reflections inspired by Slavonic *bogǔ: English bogey from a Slavonic root?" Transactions of the Philological Society, Volume 103, Number 1, April 2005, pp. 73–97(25)
  4. Harper, Douglas. "bugbear". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  5. Harper, Douglas. "bugaboo". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  6. Auchard, John (2007-01-28). "In Indonesia". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  7. "The Buginese of Sulawesi". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  8. "El cucuy has roots deep in border folklore"
  9. "Ninna Nanna, Ninna oh".
  10. "TheRaven's Aviary - Folklore and Superstition".
  11. Edouard Brasey, L'encyclopédie du merveilleux, T3 : Des peuples de l'ombre, Le Pré aux Clercs, 2006, pp. 14–16.
  12. Makra, Sándor (1988). A mágia. Magvető.
  13. "Desember - 2011 - mariapriskamarvina".
  14. ‘Ghoul’ re-emerges in Iraq. Sep 5, 2013 news article.
  15. Tidona, Carmelo Massimo. "L'Uomo Nero (Boogeyman)". Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  16. olmis. "Stampalibera - Home".
  17. Yamamoto Yoshiko: The Namahage: a festival in the northeast of Japan. Institute for the Study of Human Issues, Philadelphia 1978, ISBN 0-915980-66-5
  18. Soldiers of Fortune, TIME Asia
  19. Slusser, Mary Shepherd (1982). Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691031282, 9780691031286. Page 364.
  20. "Read Spanish Language Articles to Help You Learn Spanish".
  21. 虎姑婆, 28-05-2016
  22. Frederic Gomes Cassidy, Joan Houston Hall, Dictionary of American Regional English, Harvard University Press, 1985.
  23. Wright, Elizabeth Mary, Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore, London:H. Milford, 1913.
  24. Cherokee Heritage Museum and Gallery, Friends "The Meaning behind the Booger Dance Masks", by Dr. R. Michael Abram.
  25. McNab, Chris(Chris McNab). Ancient Legends/Folklore. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2007. (ISBN 0-439-85479-2)
  26. "Nalusa Falaya (Long Black Being), monstrous giant of the Choctaw".
  27. "Cipelahq (Chebelakw)".

External links

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