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. 

Dov’è Marco?

Boh, non lo vedo da ore. 

Where is Marco?

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

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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