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For the novel by Ferdinand Oyono, see Houseboy (novel).

A houseboy is typically a male domestic worker or personal assistant who performs cleaning and personal chores. The term has history within British colonialism, military contexts, as well as in the Gay community.

British Commonwealth[edit]

Historically, houseboy was a Commonwealth term for a male housecleaner. He was usually, but not always, a person of colour who worked for an English family living in a Commonwealth country. A female housecleaner was called a housegirl. Houseboys and housegirls often had to wear a uniform. Famous British golfer J. H. Taylor, who was an orphan, worked as a houseboy for the parents of golfer Horace Hutchinson at their home near Royal North Devon Golf Club.[1]


Houseboy was also used as an American slang term originating in World War II for a native boy who helped a soldier perform basic responsibilities like cleaning, laundry, ironing, shoe-shining, running errands, and the like. However, unlike the American "bootleboy" or British "batman (military)", a houseboy was not employed by an officer or noncommissioned officer but by the entry-level soldier or private as a means to reduce a very heavy workload or to cut corners on a large amount of work. The employment was at first condoned but later, and especially during the Korean War, soldiers who were caught employing a houseboy faced stiff penalties because a lot of them became expert thieves and could be either bribed for information or have their relatives kidnapped or killed for helping Americans. By 1982, Korean houseboys were again permitted (as at Camp Casey), and were generally middle-aged men conspicuously older than the young troops they served.[citation needed]

Cultural references[edit]

The houseboy became a plot device or stock character in literature and film.

  • The cartoon character Mr. Magoo had a houseboy.
  • The Houseboy, a 1973 stage play by Irving Wardle, filmed for ITV in 1982.
  • The Houseboy, a 2007 LGBT film starring Nick May.
  • Houseboy is the name of a diary-form novel written by Ferdinand Oyono that criticizes the morality of colonialism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stevens, Mike. "The Father of Golf Instruction". Retrieved 16 April 2015.