Word of the day: Boh

This weeks word is...not a word. Or at least it isnt in the strictest of senses. The interjection boh (pronounced just as it is written, “boh”) is commonly used to show uncertainty, indifference, even reticence about a specific topic or situation.This is what our beloved Accademia della Crusca teaches us.

Finding boh”’s etymology can be tricky, because its not really a word in itself: boh” its more of a sound, a way to emphasize a thought and a lack of interest in what we are saying or listening to. Indeed, if we really want to talk about etymology, we could say boh” comes from the sounds many of us make when we want to express doubt


This means boh” has an onomatopoeic origin, that is, it comes from a sound. 


Boh” is a unique onomatopoeia, because it belongs only to the Italian language. While others, such as eh” — used to show you didnt understand something — or mmh” — typical of when you are not convinced about what theyre telling you — are common also in English, French or Spanish, boh” is only Italian. 


Translating boh” is not simple. Sometimes you can use eh,” or I dont know,” sometimes you can omit it: its role is really that of emphasizing the rest of the sentence, even if answers made of only boh” are typical, too. 


And why are we the only ones using it? Linguists dont know, so we can simply answer this question with a...boh

Dov’è Marco?

Boh, non lo vedo da ore. 

Where is Marco?

I dont know, I havent seen him for hours. 

Boh...pensavo di sapere la strada, invece mi sono perso. 

I thought I knew the way, but I got lost. 

Boh, mi aveva assicurato che sarebbe venuto, invece non è qua.

Eh...he guaranteed he was going to come, but he isnt here. 


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