There’s a new, more accurate dictionary definition for ‘bully’

There’s a new dictionary definition for ‘bully’, but some bullying myths still exist

A campaign run by The Diana Award has resulted in a change to the official definition of the word ‘bully’. The Oxford, Cambridge, Collins and other dictionaries have now removed the word ‘weaker’ to describe victims of bullying.

What is a bully?

Here are the Oxford English Dictionary definitions before and after the Diana Award’s campaign:


Bully n. a person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.


Bully n. a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.

“I am angry at the dictionary for calling me weak”

The campaign, which was conducted in association with creative agency WCRS, included a series of video interviews with children, who expressed their dissatisfaction with the definition at the time. One child said: “In the past I have been bullied. I am angry at the dictionary for calling me weak, because I was confident enough to tell someone I was being bullied, and that makes me strong.”

Bullying myths

The change has been met with a positive reaction. It’s an important step forward in changing the false perception that a bully is someone who is ‘strong’.

There is still some way to go in dispelling some of the myths that surround the issue of bullying, not only in the playground, but in the workplace and in cyberspace.

One of the most common myths about bullying is the expectation that telling someone about it will only make matters worse. Internalising your feelings will make the situation harder to cope with. Some fear that telling a loved one, employer or teacher will lead to confrontation or conflict. But having an initial, confidential chat about how the situation is making you feel will give you an idea of your options, as well as a chance to process your feelings, without necessarily leading to a showdown.

Another common misconception is that a bully is always a bully and a victim is always a victim. While it is sometimes clear cut, the roles can be interchangeable, and the school or work environment itself can contribute to a general culture of bullying.

Business leaders can encourage a healthier working environment by training managers to spot bullying behaviour. Similarly, teachers and parents can play an important role by talking openly to children about bullying.

Bullying as a behaviour choice

Anti-bullying week will run from 12-16 November 2018. The Anti-bullying alliance has announced the theme as ‘Choose respect’. After consulting with over 800 children, teachers and members of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, they identified one of the priorities as showing that bullying is a behaviour choice. They want to highlight the positive role that children and young people can play in setting a positive example to their peers by opting to respect each other at school, at home and online.

For more information about Anti-bullying week, see the Anti-Bullying Alliance’s website. For bullying advice, contact the National Bullying Helpline, which helps both children and adults who are affected by bullying: 0845 22 55 787.

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Sam Weston

I am a social media manager, content writer and audio enthusiast - I set a world record once upon a time!