The Meaning of Bolo: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of bolo? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the term bolo, including its definition, usage, etymology, examples, and more!

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What does the word bolo mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, a bolo (pronounced ˈboʊ loʊ) is a type of long, heavy single-edged knife. This heavy knife is usually of Philippine Spanish origin and is used both to cut vegetation, and as a weapon. According to Military, this tool is similar to the machete and is often used in the jungles of Indonesia and the Philippines to cut vegetation or blaze trails. These knives are characterized as having a hardwood or animal horn handle, a full tang, and a curved blade that widens at the top. There are various different types of bolos that one might see, including the haras, kutsilyo, the bolo-guna, the garab, pinuti, and the sundang. The U.S. Military also uses this term to mean to fail some exam or evaluation. This comes from the Philippine-American forces in World War II, in which guerillas who did not demonstrate proficiency in their exams were given bolos instead of firearms. If you wanted to use this form of the word bolo in a sentence, you could say, “I worked on that overgrown yard all weekend, and ended up using a bolo to clear most of the vegetation. Now we can finally lay some lawn in!” If you were trying to use the term bolo in the military slang way, you might say, “I totally bolo’d that math text. I definitely failed it.”

The word bolo can also be used to refer to the bolo tie, per Art of Manliness. A bolo tie is a braided leather cord tie that has either silver or metal tips. The cord is threaded through a decorative clasp that is usually made of metal, wood or beads. This is usually decorated with Western designs or motifs, and commonly have turquoise or Native American beads. According to Santa Fe, this style of necktie has been used since the 1940s and originated in the 1940s or 1950s in the American Southwest. If you wished to use this form of the word bolo in a sentence, you could say something like, “My brother and all of my cousins are going to wear bolo ties to my grandfather’s funeral to honor him. I never saw that man without a bolo tie on, they were his favorite.”

According to The Free Dictionary, the term BOLO can also be used as an acronym. While BOLO can stand for Bread of Life Outreach (Newport Assembly of God; Newport, PA), it most commonly stands for Be On the Look Out. According to US Legal,  a BOLO is similar to an APB, or all-points bulletin. These abbreviations are used by law enforcement to alert all systems about wanted criminals, suspects, stolen items, or other things that law enforcement across a county or state should be on the lookout for. This can also be called a BOL, or an ATL. If you wanted to use this definition of BOLO in a sentence, you could say, “There is a BOLO out for a white man in his mid-50s driving a silver Toyota sedan. He just held up a gas station. Let me know if you see a car matching that description.” 

What are synonyms for the term bolo?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word bolo when referring to a knife or machete. It is useful to know synonyms – which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase – for words like bolo, because people might not always know what you mean. The word bolo has many different definitions, so synonyms can help clarify. It is also useful to know synonyms for words because it can help you avoid repeating yourself and expand your vocabulary at the same time. This list of synonyms for the word bolo is provided by Thesaurus.

  • blade
  • stiletto
  • machete
  • scythe
  • bayonet
  • sabre
  • switchblade
  • shank
  • lance
  • sickle
  • ripper
  • tickler
  • skewer
  • shiv
  • dagger
  • knife
  • edge
  • steel
  • scalpel
  • lancet
  • skiver
  • cutlass
  • point
  • sword
  • scimitar
  • cutting edge
  • bola
  • cutter

If you are using the term bolo to refer to the style of tie, this can also be referred to as a bola tie or string tie. Finally, if you are using BOLO as an acronym to stand for be on the lookout, there are a plethora of other phrases one can use. This list of synonyms for BOLO is provided by Thesaurus.

  • check out
  • mind
  • beware
  • watch out
  • spot
  • superintend
  • pick up on
  • have a care
  • heads up
  • oversee
  • be wary
  • be careful
  • keep eyes peeled
  • scope
  • be watchful
  • ride shotgun for
  • be alert
  • be on guard
  • police
  • keep tabs
  • take heed
  • keep an eye out
  • patrol
  • keep watch over
  • pay attention
  • hearken
  • spy
  • shotgun
  • be on the lookout
  • be vigilant
  • take care of
  • peg
  • attend
  • notice
  • tend
  • keep eyes open
  • listen
  • look after
  • care for
  • size up
  • look out
  • be on alert
  • keep
  • wait

Overall, the word bolo can be used to refer to a few different things. First, a bolo is a type of knife or machete that is of Philippine origin. Second, a bolo is a type of necktie. Third, BOLO can stand for be on the lookout, which is synonymous with the law enforcement agency term APB. Finally, the word bolo is a military slang term in the United states military for failing some exam or evaluation. There are many different definitions of bolo in the English language.