The precursor of “tomboy” is hoyden, which Michele Ann Abate describes as follows:

First appearing in the late 16th Century, the term shares a similar etymology history: it also referred to rambunctions boys and men rather than girls and women. Ineed the Oxford English Dictionary provides the following definition for “hoyden”: “A rude, ignorant, or awkward fellow; a clown, a boor”. By the late 17th Century, however, this meaning shifted and the word began referring to like-minded members of the opposite sex: “A rude, or ill-bred girl (or woman): a boisterous noisy girl, a romp.” Unlike a tomboy, a hoden was more closely associated with breaching bourgeous mores than female gender roles.

She adds later:

Wen the concepts of “tomboy” make its debut during the mid-19th Century, it supplanted “hoyden.”

I think I’ve found the answer to my “what do you call a grown-up tomboy?” question: hoyden.

2 Replies to “Hoyden”

  1. It’s interesting how these morph. I believe the word “girl” originally referred to a young child, male or female.

  2. I’ve always loved the word ‘hoyden’. I first learned it watching the original version of Disney’s “The Parent Trap” (the one with Haley Mills). The “rich” Boston daughter (but actually her twin who’s switched places) comes home from camp having cut her hair short to match her secret twin sister. The snobby grandmother looks at her hair with distain and snarls, “it’s so HOYDENISH, are you a boy or a girl?” I have to think this line was made up by Cathleen Nesbitt, the famous Edwardian era actress and beauty who played the grandmother. It’s such a perfect term from another era.

Leave a Reply