What is in a name: The origin of the name Boerboel

boerboel name originThe origins and meanings of most names can be traced back in history. This is no different than the name of the Boerboel. To fully understand the meaning of the name Boerboel the word has to be divided into the two words that formed it being: Boer and Boel.


Boer or Boor is the Dutch, Huguenot and Afrikaans word for farmer. The word originated in the Netherlands and was first used in the 1800’s. Sadly recently the word Boer is used as racially charged word referring to the Afrikaner in general after the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War, and the onset of Apartheid.


Boel has two origins. The first is the Dutch origin literally meaning a lot. This has literal meaning when you refer it to the Boerboel: A lot could refer to a lot of dog in one body relating to the size and temperament of the dog, or also to the myriad of functions the Boerboel performs like; hunting, guarding, herding and companionship.

The word Boel is also an Afrikaans word mainly referring to the mastiff breed of dogs. The word are believed to have originated from the “bull” part of the Bullenbijter dog. Boel can also refer to a lot in Afrikaans. “A lot of dog” being translated to ‘n boel van ‘n hond.  As we always find shorter ways of saying things bigger dogs where later referred to as “Boel Honde” or bull dogs. This created another meaning for the word Boel and now it refers to all kind of mastiff dogs like: the English Bull dog, Bullterrier, Pit-Bull, and Bullmastiff.

Boel is well known and used name, South Africans give to their big dogs.


The lateral meaning of the word boerboel is “farmer’s mastiff”. Or if you refer to the word origins it is a farmer’s dog with a lot of stuff.

About Dutch and Afrikaans

It is important to note that Afrikaans is a language that has it origins from a multiple combination of languages the settlers used to create their own way of speaking, these include; Dutch, German and French. The main language Afrikaans is based on though is Dutch, as the first settler introduced in South Africa where Dutch Migrants that accompanied the Dutch East Indian Company when they created a waypoint and Colony on the Southern tip of Africa. The German and French settlers only arrived later. That is why the Dutch and Afrikaans origins of the word Boerboel has very similar meanings.