"Boak" is a Scots word that means "retch" (or vomit), and like retch it can be used as a verb, i.e. "that makes me want to boak" means "that makes me want to retch", but it can also be used as a noun, as in the phrase "that gies (gives) me the boak", which means the same thing, effectively changing boak from a verb meaning "retch" to a noun meaning "the desire to retch" or "the impulse to retch"

You couldn't say "that gives me the retch" in standard English. Is there an equivalent word that can be used in both ways? Dialect and slang words would be helpful if there isn't a standard English word, but I'd need to know where they are used

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    In the US there's "barf" and "ralph".
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 9, 2022 at 0:17
  • I have no written reference for this, just remembered forms from my youth, but where I grew up in the North of England, "boken" could be used in "it makes me boken" - which is, it makes me feel like I'm going to be sick. It doesn't mean I was. 'Boken' was the feeling, not the 'product'. I've never heard its use as a noun.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 9, 2022 at 18:52
  • Interesting. There are a lot of similar expressions for fear, nerves, etc, maybe there is one for nausea. If you're afraid you may have the shakes, the heebie-jeebies, the willies, the wobblies, jitters, butterflies...
    – Stuart F
    Jan 10, 2022 at 22:50
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    @Tetsujin from what i understand, the etymology of Scots "boak" stems from the Middle English "bolken" (which i found out when i was trying to research this question before posting here) so they're probably related, but the usage as a noun to describe the feeling rather than a verb to describe the act seems to be unique to Scots.
    – DMcLaren
    Jan 27, 2022 at 13:02

5 Answers 5


Puke is both verb and noun.



noun - vomit

Verb - to vomit

He puked after drinking too much and
he left a pool of puke on the ground.

Although it satisfies your title question, it does not work in the more restricted sense you mention of “gives me the boak”, although you might say “… gives me the vomits”, a phrase that is easily found in online search but interestingly is couched in the plural. Nevertheless, vomit is another candidate, being both verb and noun.

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    "Vomit" can be a noun, so "He left a pool of vomit on the ground" is possible. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vomit
    – Peter
    Jan 9, 2022 at 1:34
  • @Peter Indeed yes. I omitted to state that before my remark about vomits in the plural. It was late. Thanks.
    – Anton
    Jan 9, 2022 at 10:05
  • I think the word they're looking for is the feeling that you need to vomit, not the vomited material.
    – Barmar
    Jan 10, 2022 at 20:18
  • @Barmar, Yeah, thats what im looking for. None of the answers have provided an answer that exaclty matches that criteria, although "gives me the vomits" in this answer is probably closest.
    – DMcLaren
    Jan 27, 2022 at 12:56

"Makes me gag" is a common expression in English that can be an equivalent of "that gies (gives) me the boak".

The expression has the verb gag meaning "to retch" (make the sound and movement of vomiting). There aren't any senses of noun gag that means vomiting or retching. However, there is gag reflex and you could say "gives me the gag reflex" which is used but not common.

I could smell Southern Comfort around me somewhere, a scent that almost immediately gives me the gag reflex.

Death Knell A John Keegan Mystery By John Misak

The definition of gag reflex from OED:

n. retching, or spasmodic contraction of pharyngeal muscles, esp. triggered by touching structures in the back of the mouth; also figurative.

Additionally, retch is used both as a verb and a noun. The noun usage is not that common. Also, as you said, "gives me the retch" is not used. However, I was curious and I've searched the phrase in Google which only showed two results. (from sources that are not credible).

The definition of noun retch from OED:

An act of retching (in various senses); esp. an involuntary effort to vomit.

The verb retch can have two meanings in this context. The definitions of verb retch from OED:


a. transitive. To expel from the stomach or oesophagus by vomiting. Frequently with up and out.

b. intransitive. To make an involuntary effort to vomit; to strain while making the sound or action of vomiting but without expelling anything from the stomach or oesophagus. Also occasionally: to expel matter by vomiting; to throw up.


I don't think there's a noun for this feeling. We normally say

That makes me nauseous.

Lexico defines it as

Affected with nausea; inclined to vomit.


When I used 'boak' in a comment on Facebook a friend from Sunderland said they use it but spell it 'bowk'.

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    – Community Bot
    Jan 26, 2023 at 16:10

The heaves is according to Collins a UK English phrase for "an attack of vomiting or retching". It must have some currency in the US as they quote American science fiction writer Sheri S. Tepper: "He slept until mid-afternoon and awoke without the heaves."

There are quite a few of such expressions in English for other sensations, but mainly for fear or nervousness. If you're afraid you may have the shakes, the heebie-jeebies, the willies, the wobblies, the jitters, etc.

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