Boer, noun

Also with small initial, and (formerly) Boor.
Boers, Boere /buːrə/.
Dutch, AfrikaansShow more Dutch, farmer. All senses are also found in Afrikaans.
The plural ‘boere’ is a recent form in South African English, first appearing in the 1970s, which suggests that the word was ‘re-borrowed’ from Afrikaans because of the new senses it had acquired in that language.
a. A farmer; a rural Dutch- or Afrikaans-speaking person; plaasboer, see plaas sense 1 c.
Almost without exception referring to a Dutch- or Afrikaans-speaking farmer, this sense gradually widened to include all rural Dutch-speaking people (see quotations 1896 and 1900).
Used attributively in South African Dutch and Afrikaans, as well as in South African English, to designate domestic products or foodstuffs typically or mainly produced by early colonists, usually having the meaning ‘home-made’ or ‘country-style’: see Boer brandy and Boer bread. Used also to mean ‘indigenous’ in the names of plants and animals: see boerbok, boerboom, boerboon, boerbull. See also boere sense 2.
1776 F. Masson in Phil. Trans. of Royal Soc. LXVI. 282The boors informed us, the summers are often so unkindly, that their wheat is blighted while in ear, so that they purchase corn with their cattle from the low-country farmers.
1786 G. Forster tr. of A. Sparrman’s Voy. to Cape of G.H. I. 50I am just returned home..having had occasion to visit several African boors..a set of hearty honest fellows, who, though they do not, indeed, differ in rank from our Swedish peasants,..are yet for the most part extremely wealthy.
1797 Lady A. Barnard S. Afr. Century Ago (1925) 53I think the Boers, or farmers, of the country, as far as I have seen or heard of them, a better charactered race than the people of Cape Town.
1810 G. Barrington Acct of Voy. 178A true Dutch peasant, or boor, as he styles himself, has not the smallest idea of what an English farmer means by the word comfort.
a1823 J. Ewart Jrnl (1970) 91The Cape Boors or Farmers almost all of whom were originaly [sic] of Dutch or German extraction..are perhaps the most huge and unwieldy of any race of men in the world.
1821 Missionary Notices 22In consequence of my having come as the minister of the English Boors, they allow that it is a part of my duty to teach them also.
1837 N. Polson Subaltern’s Sick Leave 142The Dutch settlement..increased, and farmers (or Boers as they are here called), the pioneers of civilization, gradually proceeded farther into the interior and established themselves.
1841 Cape of G.H. Almanack & Annual Register 387Who among us does not remember the frontier boer of 1820, barefoot and clad in sheepskins, his wife covered (not dressed) in voerchitz, their dwelling houses wretched and unfurnished — and yet with all this conspicuous for their hospitality and kindness.
1852 M.B. Hudson S. Afr. Frontier Life 234The word ‘Boer’ is synonymous with the English ‘Farmer’, and is applied to every Agriculturist or Grazier.
1896 R. Wallace Farming Indust. of Cape Col. 398The word ‘Boer’ is the Dutch for a tiller of the ground, but its meaning in South Africa has been extended to cattle breeders as well as to cultivators, and ‘it is frequently used in the plural form to signify the whole rural population of European blood speaking the Dutch language.’
1899 D.S.F.A. Phillips S. Afr. Recollections 28When he inhabits a town he is no longer called a Boer (which is the Dutch for ‘farmer’), but an Africander of Dutch, German or English extraction.
1936 Cambridge Hist. of Brit. Empire VIII. 319The Boers of the eighteen-thirties — and almost without exception the Trekkers were ‘boers’, that is to say frontier stock-farmers — had a definite character of their own.
c1936 S. & E. Afr. Yr Bk & Guide 225The voortrekkers, although always known as Boers or farmers, were hardly so in fact. They were, in the first instance, mainly hunters.
1950 H. Gibbs Twilight in S. Afr. 125In 1832 news comes that Crown lands..must be sold by auction. To the Government this is only a means of raising badly needed revenue; to Boers, Afrikaner farmers, it means they must pay for what they had believed their birthright.
1979 J. Gratus Jo’burgers 7The country in which the gold was discovered was sparsely populated by farmers of Dutch descent (the Boers) who resisted the idea of having their peaceful lives disturbed.
1980 S. Jenkins in Rand Daily Mail 19 June 9There is still a cultural gap between the traditional, largely rural Boers and the new, sophisticated Afrikaners who were the children of the 1948 revolution.
1989 J. Sparg in Daily Dispatch 13 July 3Patrick Mynhardt’s presentation..was a hilarious but poignant evocation of life among the Marico farmers of yesteryear..the traditions, prejudices and indomitable spirit of the ‘boere’ of the isolated bushveld.
1991 C. Leonard in Weekly Mail 1 Feb. 6It was the ‘Boere’ versus the boere: white policemen against white farmers.
1991 G. Zwirn in Settler Vol.65 No.2, 10A Boer was a farmer of Dutch descent, whose chief interest was growing crops and breeding cattle.
1991 H. Jansen in Sunday Times 14 July 4Charlie, the black boer of Delmas..began life as a herdboy.
b. obsolete With distinguishing epithet designating a particular type of farmer:
cattle boer;
corn boer, a wheat-farmer or an agriculturalist;
melkboer /ˈmelk-/ [Afrikaans, melk milk], a dairy-farmer;
post boer, a farmer paid by the British colonial government to convey mail, usually once a fortnight, between his farm and the next post on a mail route;
schaapboer /ˈskɑːp-/ [Dutch, schaap sheep], a sheep-farmer;
vee-boer, see vee sense 2;
wine boer, wine farmer.
1827 G. Thompson Trav. 66Where he resides, had been formerly occupied by an extensive cattle boor, who had left a memorable monument of his residence in a prodigious dunghill just in front of the house.
1786 G. Forster tr. of A. Sparrman’s Voy. to Cape of G.H. II. 249In their company...came to this a place [sic] a husbandman, or, as they are usually called here, a corn-boor, from the country near Cape Town.
1823 W.W. Bird State of Cape of G.H. 48The corn-Boer complains that, when there is an abundant harvest, the supply of wheat sent into Cape Town..far exceeds the demand.
1827 G. Thompson Trav. 122The poorer class of corn boors near Cape Agulhas, and other parts of the Caledon district, are many of them more rude in their manners.
1951 L.G. Green Grow Lovely 16The old melkboer, Joachim Reyneke,..settled near the foot of this hill late in the eighteenth century.
1809 Lord Caledon in G.M. Theal Rec. of Cape Col. (1900) VII. 189Relays of Post Boors, which it is found necessary to hold in readiness for the purpose of keeping up a fixed mode of communication between Cape Town and the Country Districts.
1912 S. Afr. Agric. Jrnl July 61 (Pettman)These plants were known to the veeboer or schaapboer as the cause of the troubles they produce, long before any scientific investigation of their properties had been made.
1786 G. Forster tr. of A. Sparrman’s Voy. to Cape of G.H. II. 329This tract of country..was so well inhabited, (chiefly by wine-boors) that I could not find room for distinguishing all the farms with the usual circular mark in my map.
1822 W.J. Burchell Trav. I. 179We arrived at the house of a wine-boor, named Marais, a man of a religious turn, and a friend of my fellow-travellers.
1823 W.W. Bird State of Cape of G.H. 43The price of Cape wine of one year old, bought from the wine boer, is now under fifty rix-dollars.
1835 G. Champion Jrnl (1968) 11He was a wine boor (or farmer) living upon the products of his vineyard.
c. obs. Ellipt. for Boer tobacco.
1881 Looker On in Diggers’ Ditties (1989) 15I’ve gin and a pipeful of Boer.
1897 F.W. Sykes With Plumer in Matabeleland 103A half-pound cake of black tobacco fetched £2, whilst a handful of ‘Boer’ was greedily bought in at 5s.
1900 Westminster Gaz. (U.K.) 14 July 8A smoker may keep his pipe going from early morning till late at night if he uses good ‘Boer’.
d. In the idiomatic expression ’n boer maak ’n plan /ə ˈbuːr mɑːk ə ˌplan/ [Afrikaans, ‘a farmer makes a plan’]: in a crisis a creative solution may always be found. Also attributive. Cf. maak ’n plan (see maak sense 2).
1982 Daily Dispatch 11 Jan. 6Farm wisdom permeates our language. ’n Boer maak ’n plan is the automatic response to any situation regarding thought or discussion. I’ve heard it said sardonically in an operating theatre when the power supply failed.
1985 Fair Lady 16 Oct. 24They have..forgotten the one central motto upon which this country rests as it always has done and always will — ’n Boer maak ’n plan — and he is far, far better at it than Machiavelli ever dreamt of being.
1987 J. Barhill in Frontline Mar. 25Already the small family farm is more cost conscious than corporate farms is plain to see where the expression ‘’n boer maak ’n plan’ comes from. Machines are held together with baling wire, chicken manure is fed to cattle and the cow dung goes on the lands.
1989 J. Michell in Style Feb. 79A lot of products out here are merely utilitarian in nature because the attitude is, ‘’n boer maak ’n plan and if you don’t like it you can get lost’.
1990 Style Feb. 30Karen’s platteland upbringing gave her..a unique ’n-boer-maak-’n-plan philosophy towards fashion.
2. Obsolete except in historical contexts A Dutch-speaking colonist at the Cape; subsequently, a Dutch-speaking inhabitant of southern Africa, especially of the Transvaal, Free State and Natal republics; settler sense 1. See also sense 4 below, Afrikaner sense 2 a, Boerdom, Boeress, Boerland, Boer Republic, Boer War, burgher sense 1 a.
1800 Lady A. Barnard in D. Fairbridge Lady Anne Barnard (1924) 227I do not think the Boers after what has passed will be turbulent in a hurry again.
1825 G. Barker Journal. 25 JulyOn the road I baptised the child of a Boer at his particular request, the first time I had Baptised the child of a Colonist.
1837 N. Polson Subaltern’s Sick Leave 111There were and still are Boers too in this province, but the generality of the population is British.
1844 E.L. Kift Letter. 17 Oct.From all that I hear respecting the Orange River & Natal Boers I am much inclined to think that ere long there will be a ‘kick up’ of a serious nature between them & the Govt.
1857 D. Livingstone Missionary Trav. 98Two centuries of South African climate have not had much effect upon the physical condition of the Boers. They are a shade darker, or ruddier, than Europeans, and are never cadaverous-looking, as descendants of Europeans are said to be elsewhere.
1867 E.L. Price Jrnls (1956) 253Oh one does so weary of these Boer farms! — for there is so little to interest one after one has once studied bread-making &c &c.
1878 A. Aylward Tvl of Today 41South Africa is the home of the Boer. He is ever and always the domesticated South African settler; and therefore, as a rule, we find him a farmer and a herdsman, a flockmaster or a minister of the Dutch Church — but seldom or never a storekeeper or a middleman.
1880 E.L. Price Jrnls (1956) 408The Boers are generally so proud in their behaviour to the natives. They count them infinitely beneath them — but there is nothing of this seen among these children in school.
1899 Natal Agric. Jrnl 31 Mar. 5‘Boer’, which may be taken to mean a Cape colonist of Dutch or French descent is now an accepted English word.
1915 J.K. O’Connor Afrikander Rebellion 10The townsman has a habit..of classing all kinds of Dutch people in South Africa under the general name of Boers.
1922 J. Galsworthy Forsyte Saga 527‘The Boers are only half-civilised,’ remarked Soames; ‘they stand in the way of progress. It will never do to let our suzerainty go.’
1937 C. Birkby Zulu Journey 21These armies of black warriors delivered a number of crushing defeats to the Boers in the early thirties and blocked Boer colonisation in their territory until December 16, 1838, when the Boers finally won a great victory over the Zulu army of King Dingaan.
1946 T. Macdonald Ouma Smuts 32By now the Boer term has disappeard and has been substituted by the term Afrikaner. To-day there are far more Afrikaners in the towns than on the land.
1949 L.G. Green In Land of Afternoon 15I came across this old definition of a Boer: ‘It signifies a European by descent whose vernacular is the Taal and who uses familiarly no literary European language. It does not denote race of necessity; the Boer may be French, Dutch, German, or of any other blood..neither does it denote occupation. The Boer is often a farmer and stock-owner; but he may also be a hunter, trader, the president of a republic. He remains a Boer still while the Taal remains his only speech.’
a1951 H.C. Bosman Willemsdorp (1977) 8The colonists at the Cape had been welded into that homogeneous entity that constitutes a new nation. They were not Hollanders; they were Boers.
1966 C.A. Smith Common Names 144Their descendants..became widely dispersed over the interior as farmers and being predominantly Dutch-speaking, the term ‘boer’ became synonymous with this latter class, now spelled with a capital initial letter (Boer).
1989 Reader’s Digest Illust. Hist. of S. Afr. 5Blacks, British, Boers..and blood; the history of our troubled country is steeped in the stuff, as Africans fought one another, the Boers fought the British, and both fought the Africans.
3. In historical contexts. A soldier of the Dutch- or Afrikaans-speaking forces fighting against British forces, especially during the Anglo-Boer War. Also attributive. See also Boer-Brit, Brother Boer.
1882 C.L. Norris-Newman With Boers in Tvl 301‘The behaviour of the Boers has won them the respect of many who formerly held them in contempt. Hardly an officer is there who has had anything whatever to do with our late enemies but is very favourably impressed with them.’
1897 F.R. Statham S. Afr. as It Is 4If the skipper..happens to be an officer of the Naval Reserve, he is not long, when once Madeira is passed, in finding sympathisers for his views about ‘the Boers.’
1900 R. Kipling in J. Crwys-Williams S. Afr. Despatches (1989) 162The Boers had established themselves very comfortably among these rock-ridges and scrub-patches, and the ‘great war’ drizzled down to long shots and longer stalking.
1900 A.W. Carter Informant, Ladybrand 8 Feb. 1It was practically a drawn battle, the Boers failing to dislodge the British but not being routed from the field.
1910 J. Buchan Prester John 132I remembered a story of an escaped prisoner during the war who had only the Komati River between him and safety. But he dared not enter it, and was recaptured by a Boer commando.
1926 M. Nathan S. Afr. from Within 102In August, Kitchener issued a proclamation threatening such Boer leaders as were captured with perpetual banishment.
1933 W.H.S. Bell Bygone Days 249The problem that the General Staff are now investigating is how the Boer commandos towards the end of the war..still raided British communications with persistent mobility.
1946 T. Macdonald Ouma Smuts 83General Smuts was made a Field-Marshal. It was an unique honour. It had been given to a one-time Boer general who had fought against Britain.
1977 L. Sellers in Sunday Times 6 Nov. (Mag. Sect.) 3The final irony, with the Boers winning the peace so quickly after losing the war, is briefly but nicely touched on.
1989 W. Ebersohn in Cosmopolitan Apr. 200At the Treaty of Vereeniging, only six out of the 60 members of the Boer contingent were in favour of rejecting the terms and continuing the war.
4. An Afrikaner.
a. A pejorative name for an Afrikaner, used especially by black South Africans. Also attributive. Cf. Amabhulu sense 1.
1956 D. Jacobson Dance in Sun 39‘I knew the baas wasn’t a Boer’, the African said...If he had approached me on the strength of my not being an Afrikaner, or Boer as he preferred to put it, he had been foolhardy and reckless.
1960 J. Cope Tame Ox 57South Africa, to her, was the land of the maburu (Boers). However many others lived there, it was still so.
1968 Cole & Flaherty House of Bondage 51Boer farmers need cheap labor and it is a convenience that the Boer-dominated Government has a steady supply of prisoners available for rent at low cost.
1974 J. Matthews Park (1983) 31‘The white people are not all bad. It’s only the Boere,’ she said.
1977 S. Stander Flight from Hunter 68‘P.E. Leroux,’ he read on a credit card. ‘Hey, his name’s Leroux, he’s a bloody Boer, man.’
1977 J. Sikakane Window on Soweto 401954 was the year of the formal switch to Bantu Education for all African children. I remember hearing our parents talking about it, saying ‘the Boers were wanting to indoctrinate African children into being perpetual slaves of the white man.’
1979 A.P. Brink Dry White Season 257A sombre black figure rose from the dining table. ‘Who is this kaffir?’ asked Father-in-law...‘Why don’t you tell the boer who this kaffir is?’ asked Stanley.
1980 Sunday Times 9 Mar. 5Immediately one is aware of the inherent antagonism towards the Boer, that pejorative word used by coloureds to express their contempt.
1985 Saspu National Vol.6 No.2, 15And now we are old, what will we get? Those boers who used us — what will they do for us now that we are old. Nothing. Niks.
1990 Weekend Argus 14 July 15I was scared to death and thought I would never get out of Soweto alive, especially after Dhlomo had introduced me as a ‘Boer’ when we visited a shebeen one night.
1990 J. Naidoo Coolie Location 153She speaks English to him, only English...You know, voetseks, no bliksems, no hey jongs, no pas ops...She never, never uses a single word of the Boer language.
b. An affectionate and humorous name used by Afrikaners of themselves.
1973 Weekend Post 17 Feb. 9We sit in Africa and we are not Africans...We go to England and we find out that we are Boers who try to live like the English here under the Southern Cross.
1989 M. Du Preez in Style Feb. 40There’s always suspicion about leftie Boere. If you’re a Boer and you hate apartheid and side with the majority you’re considered unbalanced and unstable.
1990 Cosmopolitan Apr. 169He..began to feel resentful of being treated like a token boer, covering the stereotypical stories on the Broederbond, broedertwis, the church and so on.
1990 R. Malan My Traitor’s Heart 127The great Boer poet (sc. Breyten Breytenbach) spent the sixties in exile in Paris and most of the seventies in a South African prison, paying for his role in a quixotic ‘terrorist’ plot.
c. A name used by right-wing Afrikaners of all Afrikaners sharing a similar outlook; cf. Boerevolk. Also attributive.
1978 Sunday Times 30 Apr. 7The Afrikaner cannot afford to allow a wedge to be cunningly driven between English and Afrikaner by catering only for a Boer homeland.
1985 A. Goldstuck in Weekly Mail 2 Aug. 7No longer, storms Terre’blanche, will the boer be a slave to the small political smurfs..who are nothing but the backscratchers Jewry.
1988 J. Boekkooi in Frontline Oct. 23Within the ranks of the far Right, a question rages..: ‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall, Who’s the purest Boer of all?’...For some of the ultra-right a ‘Boer’ is a descendant of a Trekker, as opposed to an ‘Afrikaner’..those Cape Afrikaners who stayed behind in comfort..talking English with the imperialists.
1990 Sunday Times 22 Apr. 1Boerestaat Party leader Robert van Tonder confirmed this week that so-called ‘Boer commandos’ were being formed on a regional basis ‘with commandants in every town and generals overseeing every region’.
1990 Sunday Times 19 Aug. 2It was one of the closest confrontations yet...The 3000 black and coloured marchers began streaming past a street lined with armed Boers who have never minced words over their hatred for communists and the ANC.
1990 R. Van Tonder in Style Oct. 121The Boers won’t stand for it. There will be a civil war...The armed forces and the police are almost all Boer boys.
5. A pejorative name for a white South African. Cf. Amabhulu sense 2.
1956 A. Sampson Drum 207When he went to the Coloured school, he was singled out for teasing. ‘Wit boer!’ they called him. ‘Why don’t you go to a white school, eh?’
1974 J. Matthews Park (1983) 55‘What about your Maureen, the one who can pass?’...‘They stay in Parow...Her children go to a white school.’ ‘She married to a boer?’ Freda asked incredulously.
1984 D. Beckett in Frontline Feb. 36Overall, he says, there are plenty of white people putting in good and honest efforts. The trouble is that the blacks always believed the worst ‘...They just say “Rubbish, man, the Boere rob us”.’
1986 E.E. Bellingan in Daily Dispatch 3 Apr. 8Mr M—..generalises, it appears, by referring to all white South Africans as ‘boere’. The way he uses it has the same derogatory connotations as the word ‘kaffir’ has to the black man.
1991 E. Prov. Herald 20 Mar. 11He said J— had found Mr K—, and decided to rob him. He protested, but J— said the ‘boer had a lot of money.’
6. A pejorative name for a member of the South African security forces, including any member of the police force, prison service, or defence force; in the plural, the police force, prison service, or defence force. Cf. Amabhunu sense 3.
1970 S. Smuts Informant, Cape TownThe boere threw the drunkard in the van.
1977 D. Muller Whitey 49‘The police were in the house, Uncle Ben,’ Willy explained, his face sullen. ‘They have just gone away.’ ‘The boere, eh.’
1978 Daily Dispatch 20 Mar. 7He said the talks centred around..the withdrawal of South African troops...‘But we never sat with the Boere and they were too scared to sit with the terrorists,’ he said.
1978 Swapo Military Council in Sunday Times 12 Mar. 1Tasks of the Regional Commander Nondonga...5. To ensure that the seizure of a boer prisoner of war is made a ‘practice.’
1980 C. Hope A Separate Development (1983) 138I’m thinking myself safe and sound..when the boere smash through the door and haul me off to the big hotel.
1983 Rand Daily Mail 19 Oct. 5Unknown assailants..accused him of being a spy for the Security Forces..a ‘puppet supplying information to the Boers’.
1985 Rand Daily Mail 14 Feb. 2A coded message..stated that a Maritzburg man, Mr Ben L—, had been eliminated because he was ‘the guy who handed two comrades to the Boers’.
1989 Daily Dispatch 4 Apr. 1They had been instructed by their regional commander in Angola to..‘observe if the Boers (SADF) had been restricted to base.’
1989 Weekly Mail 1 Sept. 4The young man..began to recite, his words addressed to the government: ‘When the children play Comrades and Boere (police), and they all want to be the comrades, then I know — you will surrender.’
1990 M. Djasi in Sunday Times 4 Mar. (Extra) 10We have to be vigilant against the boers (white government forces) in South Africa.
1990 Garson & Malunga in Weekly Mail 30 Mar. 4Police said they opened fire in ‘self-defence’ after a crowd..had attacked them, shouting ‘kill the boers’.
1991 [see sense 1 a].
7. In historical contexts. Usually plural. A pejorative name for the South African government. See also Pretoria sense 1 a.
1976 E. Prov. Herald 19 Nov. 17A Coloured school principal who is a member of the liaison committee in his town..said he had been told his home was stoned because ‘I work with the Boere’.
1977 Sunday Times 27 Nov. 8I am by no means predicting a Boer-Soviet pact. But can we afford to neglect this possibility completely?
1982 Voice 18 July 4Aikhona, Chief Leabua Jonathan! You simply cannot get away with it so easily by blaming your sins on poor Pretoria. It is simply not correct that the violence in your the sole creation of the ‘Boers’.
1986 Herald (Zimbabwe) in Cape Times 24 Jan. 6The fact that the Boers have now been able to successfully engineer a coup against an African leader they do not like is an indication of the seriousness with which frontline states should treat the dangers of apartheid.
1989 Weekly Mail 27 Oct. 26‘I don’t think the boers (government) will allow the rally to be advertised, let alone permit it,’ said club member Jozi.
1990 Sunday Times 18 Feb. 5Within ANC ranks people who spoke to ‘the Boere’ were treated with suspicion by hardliners who preferred ‘war-war’ to ‘jaw-jaw’.
A farmer; a rural Dutch- or Afrikaans-speaking person; plaasboer, see plaas1 c.
Ellipt. for Boer tobacco.
in a crisis a creative solution may always be found. Also attributive.
A Dutch-speaking colonist at the Cape; subsequently, a Dutch-speaking inhabitant of southern Africa, especially of the Transvaal, Free State and Natal republics; settler1.
A soldier of the Dutch- or Afrikaans-speaking forces fighting against British forces, especially during the Anglo-Boer War. Also attributive.
An Afrikaner.
A pejorative name for an Afrikaner, used especially by black South Africans. Also attributive.
An affectionate and humorous name used by Afrikaners of themselves.
A name used by right-wing Afrikaners of all Afrikaners sharing a similar outlook;
A pejorative name for a white South African.
A pejorative name for a member of the South African security forces, including any member of the police force, prison service, or defence force; in the plural, the police force, prison service, or defence force.
A pejorative name for the South African government.
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