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Goya's Que viene el Coco ("Here Comes the Bogeyman / The Boogeyman is Coming"), c. 1797 Goya - Que viene el coco (Here Comes the Bogey-Man).jpg
Goya's Que viene el Coco ("Here Comes the Bogeyman / The Boogeyman is Coming"), c. 1797

The Bogeyman ( /ˈbɡimæn, ˈbʊɡi-/ ; [1] also spelled boogeyman, bogyman, bogieman, boogie monster or boogie man) is a mythical creature used by adults to frighten children into good behaviour. The Bogeyman has no specific appearance, and conceptions vary drastically by household and culture, but is commonly depicted as a masculine or androgynous monster that punishes children for misbehavior. [2] Bogeymen may target a specific act or general misbehaviour, depending on what purpose needs serving, often based on a warning from the child's authority figure.

Androgyny is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics into an ambiguous form. Androgyny may be expressed with regard to biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual identity. The different meanings of androgyny point to the complex interrelationship between aspects of sex, gender, and sexuality.

Monster creature that is often hideous and may produce fear or physical harm

A monster is often a type of grotesque creature, whose appearance frightens and whose powers of destruction threaten the human world's social or moral order.


The term "Bogeyman" is sometimes used as a non-specific personification or metonym for terror, and in some cases, the Devil.

Anthropomorphism attribution of human form given from other characteristics to anything other than a human being

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.

Metonymy figure of speech in which a thing or concept is referred to by the name of something closely associated with that thing or concept

Metonymy is a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is referred to by the name of something closely associated with that thing or concept.

Fear Basic emotion induced by a perceived threat

Fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs in certain types of organisms, which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events. Fear in human beings may occur in response to a certain stimulus occurring in the present, or in anticipation or expectation of a future threat perceived as a risk to body or life. The fear response arises from the perception of danger leading to confrontation with or escape from/avoiding the threat, which in extreme cases of fear can be a freeze response or paralysis.


The word bogey is believed to be derived from the Middle English bogge / bugge ("something frightening", "scarecrow"). Theories on its origin include a root meaning "goat", or a cognate of the German bögge, böggel-mann ("goblin"). It could be influenced in meaning by Old English -budda used in compounds for "beetle". [3]

Middle English Stage of the English language from about the 12th through 15th centuries

Middle English was a form of the English language, spoken after the Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. English underwent distinct variations and developments following the Old English period. Scholarly opinion varies, but the Oxford English Dictionary specifies the period when Middle English was spoken as being from 1150 to 1500. This stage of the development of the English language roughly followed the High to the Late Middle Ages.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

The word could also be linked to many similar words in other Indo-European: bogle (Scots), bûzeman (Western Frisian), boeman (Dutch), Butzemann (German), busemann (Norwegian), bøhmand / bussemand (Danish), bòcan, púca , pooka or pookha (Irish), pwca, bwga or bwgan (Welsh), puki (Old Norse), pixie or piskie (Cornish), puck (English), bogu (Slavonic), buka or babay/babayka (Russian, бука), bauk (Serbian), bubulis (Latvian), baubas (Lithuanian), bobo (Polish), bubák (Czech), bubák (Slovak), bebok (Silesian), papão (Portuguese), торбалан (Bulgarian), Μπαμπούλας (Greek), ბუა), babau (Italian), бабай (Ukrainian), baubau (Romanian), and papu (Catalan). [4]

Indo-European languages family of several hundred related languages and dialects

The Indo-European languages are a language family of several hundred related languages and dialects.

Scots language Germanic language

Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster in Ireland. It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language which was historically restricted to most of the Highlands, the Hebrides and Galloway after the 16th century. The Scots language developed during the Middle English period as a distinct entity.

West Frisian language Germanic language

West Frisian, or simply Frisian is a West Germanic language spoken mostly in the province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands, mostly by those of Frisian ancestry. It is the most widely spoken of the three Frisian languages.

A related word, bugbear , from bug, meaning goblin or scarecrow, and bear , was imagined as a demon in the form of a bear that eats small children, and was also used to mean a general object of dread. [5] The word bugaboo , with a similar pair of meanings, may have arisen as an alteration of bugbear. [6]

Bugbear creature from myth

A bugbear is a legendary creature or type of hobgoblin comparable to the bogeyman, and other creatures of folklore, all of which were historically used in some cultures to frighten disobedient children.

Bear Family of mammals

Bears are carnivoran mammals of the family Ursidae. They are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans. Although only eight species of bears are extant, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere. Bears are found on the continents of North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Common characteristics of modern bears include large bodies with stocky legs, long snouts, small rounded ears, shaggy hair, plantigrade paws with five nonretractile claws, and short tails.

Other putative origins

In Southeast Asia, the term is popularly supposed to refer to Bugis [7] or Buganese [8] pirates, ruthless seafarers of southern Sulawesi, Indonesia's third-largest island. These pirates often plagued early English and Dutch trading ships of the British East India Company and Dutch East India Company. It is popularly believed that this resulted in the European sailors bringing their fear of the "bugi men" back to their home countries. However, etymologists disagree with this, because words relating to bogeyman were in common use centuries before European colonization of Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia Subregion of Asia

Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China and Japan, east of India, west of Papua New Guinea, and north of Australia. Southeast Asia is bordered to the north by East Asia, to the west by South Asia and the Bay of Bengal, to the east by Oceania and the Pacific Ocean, and to the south by Australia and the Indian Ocean. The region is the only part of Asia that lies partly within the Southern Hemisphere, although the majority of it is in the Northern Hemisphere. In contemporary definition, Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions:

  1. Mainland Southeast Asia, also known historically as Indochina, comprising parts of Northeast India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and West Malaysia.
  2. Maritime Southeast Asia, also known historically as Nusantara, the East Indies and Malay Archipelago, comprises the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India, Indonesia, East Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, East Timor, Brunei, Christmas Island, and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Taiwan is also included in this grouping by many anthropologists.
Sulawesi island of Indonesia

Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes, is an island in Indonesia. One of the four Greater Sunda Islands, and the world's eleventh-largest island, it is situated east of Borneo, west of the Maluku Islands, and south of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. Within Indonesia, only Sumatra, Borneo and Papua are larger in territory, and only Java and Sumatra have larger populations.

Indonesia Republic in Southeast Asia

Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the world's largest island country, with more than seventeen thousand islands, and at 1,904,569 square kilometres, the 14th largest by land area and the 7th largest in combined sea and land area. With over 261 million people, it is the world's 4th most populous country as well as the most populous Muslim-majority country. Java, the world's most populous island, is home to more than half of the country's population.

In Luo dialects in Eastern Africa the term 'bwogo' (with pronunciation sound like 'booga') means to scare. This correlation is most likely spurious as Nilotic language roots predate the modern concept of civilization itself.[ citation needed ]

Analogues in other cultures

Bogeyman-like beings are almost universal, common to the folklore of many countries.

Sack Man

In many countries, a bogeyman variant is portrayed as a man with a sack on his back who carries naughty children away. This is true for many Latin countries, such as Brazil, Portugal, Spain, and the countries of Spanish America, where he is referred to as el "Hombre del costal", el "hombre del saco", or in Portuguese, o "homem do saco" (all of which mean "the sack/bag man"), or el roba-chicos, meaning child-stealer. Similar legends are also very common in Eastern Europe (e.g. Bulgarian Torbalan, "sack man"), as well as in Haiti and some countries in Asia.

El Coco

El Coco (also El Cuco and Cucuy, sometimes called El Bolo) is a monster common to many Spanish-speaking countries.

In Spain, parents will sing lullabies or tell rhymes to children, warning them that if they do not sleep, El Coco will come to get them. The rhyme originated in the 17th century and has evolved over the years, but still retains its original meaning. Coconuts (Spanish: coco) received that name because the hairy, brown "face" created by the coconut shell's three indentations reminded the Portuguese sailers of "Coco". Latin America also has El Coco, although its folklore is usually quite different, commonly mixed with native beliefs, and, because of cultural contacts, sometimes more related to the boogeyman of the United States. However, the term El Coco is also used in Spanish-speaking Latin American countries, such as Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, although there it is more usually called El Cuco, as in Puerto Rico, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. Among Mexican-Americans, El Cucuy is portrayed as an evil monster that hides under children's beds at night and kidnaps or eats the child that does not obey his/her parents or go to sleep when it is time to do so. However, the Spanish American bogeyman does not resemble the shapeless or hairy monster of Spain: social sciences professor Manuel Medrano says popular legend describes El cucuy as a small humanoid with glowing red eyes that hides in closets or under the bed. "Some lore has him as a kid who was the victim of violence... and now he's alive, but he's not," Medrano said, citing Xavier Garza's 2004 book Creepy Creatures and other Cucuys." [9]

In Brazilian folklore, a similar character called Cuca is depicted as a female humanoid alligator. There's a famous lullaby sung by most parents to their children that says that the Cuca will come to get them if they do not sleep, just as in Spain. The Cuca is also a character of Monteiro Lobato's Sítio do Picapau Amarelo , a series of short novels written for children which contain a large number of characters from Brazilian folklore.


In the countries of central and eastern Mediterranean, children who misbehave are threatened with a creature known as "babau" (or "baubau", "baobao", "bavbav", or similar). In Italy, the Babau (in Romania, Bau-bau) is also called l'uomo nero (Romanian: omul negru) or "black man". In Italy, he is portrayed as a tall man wearing a heavy black coat, with a black hood or hat which hides his face. Sometimes, parents will knock loudly under the table, pretending that someone is knocking at the door, and say something like: "Here comes l'uomo nero! He must know that there's a child here who doesn't want to drink his soup!". It is also featured in a widespread nursery rhyme in Italy: "Ninna nanna ninna oh, questo bimbo a chi lo do? Lo darò all' uomo nero, che lo tiene un anno intero." (English: "Lullaby Lulla Oh, who do I give this child to? I will give him to the Boogeyman, who's going to keep him for a whole year") L'uomo nero is not supposed to eat or harm children, but instead takes them away to a mysterious and frightening place. [10] In Slovenia, the "Bavbav" is described as a formless spirit. In Greece and Cyprus, the equivalent of the Bogeyman is known as Baboulas (Greek : Μπαμπούλας). Typically, he is said to be hiding under the bed, although the details of his story are adapted by the parents in a variety of ways. In Egypt "al-Bu'bu'" (البعبع) is often depicted as a night creature dressed in black who haunts children that misbehave.


Germanic folklore has dozens of different figures that correspond to the Bogeyman. These have various appearances (such as of a gnome, man, animal, monster, ghost or devil) and are sometimes said to appear at very specific places (such as in forests, at water bodies, cliffs, cornfields or vineyards). These figures are called by many different names which are often only regionally known. One of these, possibly etymologically related to the Bogeyman, is the Butzemann , which can be of gnome-like or other demonic or ghostly appearance. Other examples include the Buhmann (who is mostly proverbial) and der schwarze Mann ("the black man"), an inhuman creature which hides in the dark corners under the bed or in the closet and carries children away. The figure is part of the children's game "Wer hat Angst vorm schwarzen Mann?" ("Who is afraid of the bogeyman?").

In Denmark, the creature is known as the bussemand or bøhmand. It hides under the bed and grabs children who will not sleep. As in the English equivalent, bussemand is also a slang term for nasal mucus. In Norway, he is referred to as the Busemann. In the Netherlands, the Boeman is portrayed as a creature that resembles a man, dressed completely black, with sharp claws and fangs. He hides under the bed or in the closet. The Bogeyman takes bad children or those that refuse to sleep and locks them in his basement for a period of time.

In the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, used in those areas of Pennsylvania colonized by Swiss and Germanic peoples during the eighteenth century, "der Butzemann" is the term for a male scarecrow. A female scarecrow is a "Butzefrau".

Other examples

Plaque at Itum Bahal, Kathmandu showing Gurumapa Gurumapa eating rice.jpg
Plaque at Itum Bahal, Kathmandu showing Gurumapa

See also

Related Research Articles

Boggart is one of numerous related terms used in English folklore for either a household spirit or a malevolent genius loci inhabiting fields, marshes or other topographical features. Other names of this group include bug, bugbear, bogey, bogun, bogeyman, bogle, etc., presumably all derived from Old English pūcel, Irish púca and Welsh bwg with the same meaning.

Ogre West-European mythological creature

An ogre is a legendary monster usually depicted as a large, hideous, man-like being that eats ordinary human beings, especially infants and children. Ogres frequently feature in mythology, folklore, and fiction throughout the world. They appear in many classic works of literature, and are most often associated in fairy tales and legend with a taste for infants.

The púca, pooka, phouka, phooka, phooca, puca or púka is primarily a creature of Celtic folklore. Considered to be bringers both of good and bad fortune, they could either help or hinder rural and marine communities. Púcaí can have dark or white fur or hair. The creatures were said to be shape changers which could take the appearance of horses, goats, cats, dogs, and hares. They may also take a human form, which includes various animal features, such as ears or a tail.

Merman legendary aquatic creature with the upper body of a male human and the tail of a fish

Mermen are mythical male equivalents and counterparts of mermaids – legendary creatures who have the form of a male human from the waist up and are fish-like from the waist down, having scaly fish tails in place of legs. A "merboy" is a young merman.

The kallikantzaros is a malevolent goblin in Southeastern European and Anatolian folklore. Stories about the kallikantzaros or its equivalents can be found in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Cyprus. Kallikantzaroi are believed to dwell underground but come to the surface during the twelve days of Christmas, from 25 December to 6 January.

Coco (folklore) mythical ghost-monster found in many Hispanic and Lusophone countries

The Coco is a mythical ghost-monster, equivalent to the bogeyman, found in many Hispanophone and Lusophone countries. He can also be considered an Iberian version of a bugbear, as it is a commonly used figure of speech representing an irrational or exaggerated fear. The Coco is a male being while Coca is the female version of the mythical monster, although it is not possible to distinguish one from the other as both are the representation of the same being.

"Under the Bed" is an episode of The Outer Limits television show. It was first broadcast on 26 May 1995 during the first season.

A bodach, is a trickster or bogeyman figure in Gaelic folklore and mythology. The bodach "old man" is paired with the cailleach "hag, old woman" in Irish legend.

Icelandic Christmas folklore depicts mountain-dwelling characters and monsters who come to town during Christmas. The stories are directed at children and are used to scare them into good behaviour. The folklore includes both mischievous pranksters who leave gifts during the night and monsters who eat disobedient children.

Brazilian mythology is the subset of Brazilian folklore with cultural elements of diverse origin found in Brazil, comprising folk tales, traditions, characters and beliefs regarding places, peoples, and entities. The category was originally restricted to indigenous elements, but has been extended to include:

London Falling is a strip published in June-July 2006 in the British comics magazine 2000 AD, created by writer Simon Spurrier and artist Lee Garbett. It explores bogeymen from English folklore and mythology wreaking havoc in a modern-day setting.


A futakuchi-onna is a type of yōkai or Japanese monster. They are characterized by their two mouths – a normal one located on her face and second one on the back of the head beneath the hair. There, the woman's skull splits apart, forming lips, teeth and a tongue, creating an entirely functional second mouth.

Philippine mythical creatures are the mythical beasts, monsters, and enchanted beings of more than 140 ethnic groups in the Philippines. Each ethnic people has their own unique set of belief systems, which includes the belief in various mythical creatures. Due to this, there has been around 500 recorded different mythical creatures in Philippine mythology, each belonging to specific belief systems of certain ethnic peoples. Although the number may be expanded into around a thousand, as the mythical creatures of more than a hundred ethnic groups in the country have yet to be recorded and published by scholars. There are also some mythical creatures in Philippine mythology that have been imported or altered due to colonialism and globalization, nonetheless, majority have retained their indigenous beliefs rooted in folklore.

Mythic humanoids are mythological creatures that are part human or resemble humans through appearance or character.

The Apotamkin is a creature in Native American mythology. One interpretation of Apotamkin is that it is a myth used to instill fear into children to keep them from venturing into areas alone and without parental guidance.

Sack Man type of mythical character said to carry naughty children away in bags

The Sack Man is a figure similar to the bogeyman, portrayed as a man with a sack on his back who carries naughty children away. Variants of this figure appear all over the world, particularly in Latin countries, such as Spain, Portugal, Brazil and the countries of Spanish America, where it referred to as el "Hombre del costal", el hombre del saco, or in Portuguese, o homem do saco, and Eastern Europe. Similar legends are found in Haiti and some countries in Asia.

Babay is a night spirit in Slavic Mythology and Folklore. It was believed that he was abducting children who were not sleeping. His female equivalent is Babayka (Babaika).


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