Could anybody explain the etymology of the phrase broth of a boy? I know the meaning but cannot understand how it happens that it means what it means.

  • 3
    Well, you take a large kettle, place a boy in it, and cook until you have a broth.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 17:39
  • 3
    Irish in modern usage - see 1959 film of tat name. Oxford Dictionaries says used approvingly to refer to a very lively boy or young man. Etymology Old English, of Germanic origin; related to brew.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 17:44
  • Can you give a sentence or paragraph of context?
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 18:09

1 Answer 1


Broth of a boy, from page 178 of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary: Luxury Edition:

Irish a very lively boy or young man.
ORIGIN OE, of Gmc origin; rel. to BREW

Broth of a boy is thought to be of Irish origin, not directly from English broth, but probably from a similar linguistic stock:

Old English broþ, from Proto-Germanic *bruthan (cognates: Old High German *brod),

from verb root *bhreue- "to heat, boil, bubble; liquid in which something has been boiled" (source also of Old English breowan "to brew;" see brew (v.)).

Picked up from Germanic by the Romanic and Celtic languages.

The Irishism broth of a boy, which is in Byron, was "thought to originate from the Irish Broth, passion -- Brotha passionate, spirited ..." [Farmer], and if so is not immediately related.


Old English breowan "to brew" (class II strong verb, past tense breaw, past participle browen),

from Proto-Germanic *breuwan "to brew" (cognates: Old Norse brugga, Old Frisian briuwa, Middle Dutch brouwen, Old High German briuwan, German brauen "to brew"),

from PIE root *bhreuə- "to bubble, boil, effervesce" (cognates: Sanskrit bhurnih "violent, passionate," Greek phrear "well, spring, cistern," Latin fervere "to boil, foam," Thracian Greek brytos "fermented liquor made from barley," Russian bruja "current," Old Irish bruth "heat;" Old English beorma "yeast;" Old High German brato "roast meat"),

the original sense thus being "make a drink by boiling."

Etymonline.com Emphasis mine

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