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For other uses, see Boondocks (disambiguation).

The boondocks is an American expression which comes from the Filipino word bundok. It originally referred to a remote rural area,[1] but now is often applied to an out of the way city or town that is considered backwards and unsophisticated.[2]


The expression was introduced to English by American military personnel serving in the Philippines at the beginning of the 20th century.[3][4] It derives from the Tagalog word "bundok", meaning "mountain".[5][6] According to military historian Paul Kramer, the term originally had "connotations of bewilderment and confusion", due to the guerrilla warfare the soldiers were engaged in.[4]

"Bundok" in the Philippines is also a colloquialism referring to rural areas inland which are usually mountainous and difficult to access, as most major cities and settlements in the Philippine Islands are located on or near the coastline.[6] Equivalent terms in use are the Spanish-derived "probinsya" ('province') and the Cebuano "bukid" ('mountain').[7] When used generally, the term refers to a rustic or uncivilized area. When referring to people (Tagalog "taga-bundok"/"probinsyano", Cebuano "taga-bukid" – literally 'someone who comes from the mountains/provinces'), it acquires a derogatory connotation referring to the stereotype of country people being unsophisticated, ignorant, uncultured, illiterate, or naive.[8]

Expanded meanings[edit]

The term has evolved into American slang used to refer to the countryside or any implicitly isolated rural/wilderness area, regardless of topography or vegetation. Similar slang or colloquial words are "the sticks", "the wops", "the chodes", "the backblocks", or "Woop Woop" in Australia and New Zealand, "bundu" in South Africa, and "out in the tules" in California. The diminutive "the boonies" can be heard in films about the Vietnam War such as Brian De Palma's Casualties of War. It is used by American military personnel to designate rural areas of Vietnam. Many[who?] from the urban East Coast of the United States have presumed the word to come from "boon docks," a description, not used by mariners, to describe floating docks more common in remote fishing villages than in busier ports.

"Down in the Boondocks" is a song written and produced by Joe South and sung by Billy Joe Royal. It was a hit in 1965. It tells the story of a young man who laments that people put him down because he was born in the boondocks. He is in love with the boss man's daughter and vows to work slavishly until, one day, he can "move from this old shack" and fit in to her society. Throughout the song, he asks the "Lord [to] have mercy on the boy from down in the boondocks".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Williams, Edwin B., ed. (September 1991). The Scribner-Bantam English Dictionary (Revised ed.). Bantam Books. p. 105. ISBN 0-553-26496-6. 
  2. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 
  3. ^ Clay, Grady (1998). "Boondocks". Real Places. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 180–181. ISBN 0-226-10949-6. 
  4. ^ a b Kramer, Paul (2006). The Blood of Government. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 33–34. ISBN 0-8078-5653-3. 
  5. ^ Heller, Louis (1984). "boondocks". The Private Lives of English Words. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 20. ISBN 0-7102-0006-4. 
  6. ^ a b Brock, Emily K. "Bundok—Filipino". Environment & Society Portal. Rachel Carson Center for Environment & Society. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  7. ^ "What A English" by Jon Joaquin.[dead link]
  8. ^ Competence Matters: the Peter Principle Strikes the Philippines Over and Over