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The boondocks is an American expression from the Tagalog (Filipino) word bundók ("mountain"). It originally referred to a remote rural area,[1] but now, is often applied to an out-of-the-way area considered backward and unsophisticated by city-folk. It can also occasionally refer to a mountain in both Filipino and American context.[2]


The expression was introduced to English by U.S. military personnel fighting in the Philippine–American War (1899-1902).[3][4] It derives from the Tagalog word "bundók",[note 1] which means "mountain".[5][6][7] According to military historian Paul A. Kramer, the term originally had "connotations of bewilderment and confusion", due to the guerrilla warfare in which the soldiers were engaged.[4]

In the Philippines, the word bundók is also a colloquialism referring to rural inland areas, which are usually mountainous and difficult to access, as most major cities and settlements in the Philippines are located in lowlands or near the coastline.[6] Equivalent terms include the Spanish-derived probinsiya ("province") and the Cebuano term bukid ("mountain").[note 2][8][9] When used generally, the term refers to a mountainous area with a connotation of being rustic or uncivilized. When referring to people (taga-bundok or probinsiyano in Tagalog; taga-bukid in Cebuano; English: "someone who comes from the mountains/provinces"), it is sometimes used to connote a stereotype of naive or boorish countryside dwellers.

Expanded meanings[edit]

The term evolved into American slang to refer to the countryside or isolated rural/wilderness area, regardless of topography or vegetation. Similar slang or colloquial words are "the sticks", "the wops", "the backblocks", or "Woop Woop" in Australia, "the wop-wops" in New Zealand, "bundu" in South Africa (unrelated to "boondocks" or "bundok"), "out in the weeds" in New Brunswick and "out in the tules" in California. The diminutive "boonies" can be heard in films about the Vietnam War such as Brian De Palma's Casualties of War (1989) used by American soldiers to designate rural areas of Vietnam.

Boondocking refers to camping with a recreational vehicle (RV) in a remote location without the electricity, water, or sewer infrastructure that is available at campgrounds or RV parks.

In African-American culture, the word "boondocks" refers to all-white towns and cities that are isolated from primarily African-American urban life.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ From Proto-Malayo-Polynesian *bunduk ("higher ground"), ultimately from Proto-Austronesian *bunduk ("higher ground")
  2. ^ From Proto-Austronesian *bukij ("mountain", "forested inland mountain areas")


  1. ^ Williams, Edwin B., ed. (September 1991). The Scribner-Bantam English Dictionary (Revised ed.). Bantam Books. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-553-26496-8.
  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 978-0-226-10949-7.
  4. ^ a b Kramer, Paul (2006). The Blood of Government. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 33–34. ISBN 978-0-8078-5653-6.
  5. ^ Heller, Louis (1984). "boondocks". The Private Lives of English Words. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-7102-0006-8.
  6. ^ a b Brock, Emily K. "Emily K. Brock. Bundok—Filipino". Environment & Society Portal. Rachel Carson Center for Environment & Society. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
  7. ^ Robert Blust & Stephen Trussel. "Austronesian Comparative Dictionary: *bunduk". Austronesian Comparative Dictionary. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  8. ^ "What A English" by Jon Joaquin.
  9. ^ Robert Blust & Stephen Trussel. "Austronesian Comparative Dictionary: *bukij". Austronesian Comparative Dictionary. Retrieved October 21, 2018.