Himbo, a portmanteau of the words him and bimbo, is a slang term for an attractive but vacuous man. The first known use dates back to 1988.[1] Since then, the term and the stereotype it describes have generated a range of commentary and reactions from writers, entertainers, linguists, and cultural analysts.

Etymology and definitionsEdit

Several dictionaries cite 1988 as the first time the word himbo was used. By then, the word bimbo, which earlier in the 20th century had been used for both males and females, was being used predominately for females, so himbo, a combination of "him" and "bimbo", was coined to refer specifically to males.[1][2] The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English cites a 1988 Washington Post description of a "macho himbo who strutted the Croisette wearing a 16 foot python like a stole around his shoulders and neck".[3]

Partridge defines himbo as "a man objectified by his good looks and presumed lack of intellectual qualities, a man who trades on this image, a gigolo".[3]

Merriam-Webster's definition is "an attractive but vacuous man".[1]

One user-submitted definition on Urban Dictionary emphasizes the sexual connotation of the word, describing it as "a male version of a bimbo, whore or slut", and using the example, "He's such a himbo he'd sleep with anything that has a pulse."[4]

As the word generated popularity in the early 2020s, the word himbo began to be associated with a positive masculine archetype of being attractive, stupid, but also kind and goodhearted, as the "human version of a golden retriever — beautiful, incredibly well-intentioned, and dumb."[5]

Use in popular cultureEdit

20th centuryEdit

In 1995, Sherry Sylvester of CNN interviewed male Hollywood celebrities about the use of the term 'himbo' and sexual objectification of men in entertainment and received a range of reactions. "There's a great word," said actor Keanu Reeves. "I love that. I read that and laughed my head off." Tom Selleck said he was "always flattered to be called a sex symbol" but Sylvester Stallone said he had fought "the stereotype that brawny means brainless" for years. David Charvet of Baywatch noted, "You find yourself doing a show for three years where you are sticking your chest out and your shoulders are back and you're holding in your stomach and you realize that that's so boring after awhile."[6]

In a 1994 interview, sociologist Michael Kimmel, who analyzes the himbo stereotype in his book Manhood in America: A Cultural History, said there are two types of himbos, those created for women, like the model Fabio, and those created for men, like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. The man's himbo, says Kimmel, is usually known for having some kind of prowess, like Charles Atlas or Stallone, whereas the woman's himbo is 'kinder and gentler' like Woody Harrelson or, like Fabio, "a male Zsa Zsa Gabor... famous for doing very little."[7][8]

"You could legitimately call it a victory for men, that we now have men famous for doing nothing," Kimmel noted. He also observes that the origin of the himbo stereotype can be seen in mid 20th century television shows, whose audiences were primarily women, "that traditionally present Mother as the all-wise and Father as a bit of a bumbling idiot".[7]

In her 1995 book, Beyond the Double Bind: Women and Leadership, communications professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson uses bimbo and himbo as examples of 'linguistic reversal' which "creates a range of condemnation applicable to men that mirrors that for women." "Each of these moves invites us to examine our presuppositions", she states, and "makes it less likely that language penalizing women will be taken for granted in future exchanges." Another example she cites is trophy wife and trophy husband.[9]

Season 1 Episode 8 of the TV series Oh, Grow Up was called "Himbo" (1999).[10]

21st centuryEdit

In 2006, Seventeen editor Atoosa Rubenstein and psychologist Jeff Gradere spoke on the Today Show about the "himbo cultural phenomenon". Rubenstein describes variations of himbos like the Hound Dog Himbo and the Socialite Himbo, and compares current actors to the different categories. ""The girls love [himbos] because they are malleable." she said. "As women become more successful, they want a guy who isn't going to take over their lives....they are the wave of the future." Gradere was more critical of the phenomenon, saying that boys trying to 'dumb down' or use their sexuality to get attention or financial support was no better than girls doing the same thing." "We understand the value of women taking on more masculine roles and men assuming what were once considered more traditional female roles. However, somewhere along the way, himbos have warped this idea and turned it into a free ride at the expense of women, which is disrespectful and manipulative."[11]

By the early 2000s, himbo was frequently being used in entertainment. In an interview for the 2004 documentary Frodo Is Great... Who Is That?!!, Jemaine Clement stated that fans of the eponymous Lord of the Rings extra "[make] him out to be quite a himbo".[12] A 2006 episode of the TV series Freddie was called "Freddie the Himbo".[13] In 2007, the Ugly Betty character Daniel Meade was described as a "himbo" in Season 1, Episode 11 of the show.[14]

Lauren Bans of GQ Magazine discussed the rise of the himbo character in entertainment in her 2012 article, "Bimbos with Balls", noting the proliferation of "a new breed of buffed up hollow men" was replacing female bimbo characters in shows like New Girl, Cougar Town, and Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, as well as movies like Magic Mike and Showgirls. Citing even earlier himbo appearances in Seinfeld and Friends, Bans theorizes that the 21st century has spawned a "Golden Age of himbodom", based on a new Hollywood vision of women as "crass sexual aggressors" who "need subjects to crassly sexually aggress".[15]

In the chapter "Let's Hear it for the Boy Toy" of their book The Hookup Handbook: A Single Girl's Guide to Living It Up, authors Jessica Rozler and Andrea Lavinthal describe a variety of himbo 'types' such as actors, bartenders, models, and personal trainers, as well as identifying features of different kinds of "Himbo Hookups", including The Beauty and The Beast Complex, the Sugar Mama, and so on.[16]

Noreen Malone of The New Republic correlates the rise of the Himbo stereotype and its "ornamental masculinity" in 2012 with the disappearance of opportunities for 'real expressions of manly manliness', especially for working-class men, as well as to a shift in power dynamics between men and women.[17]

In 2016, Christian Toto criticized the himbo trend as a kind of 'reverse objectification' for men, setting a double standard in which it has become more acceptable for men to be sex objects than women.[18]

In the early 2020s, after a twitter user called the term Himbo "ablist", a flurry of news articles and commentary about the term appeared, some of which defended the positive attributes of the himbo stereotype, like emotional intelligence and loyalty. [19][20][21]


Synonyms for himbo include bimboy, mimbo, boy toy and Blank Chuck.[16][22][23]

The Jamaican version, according to Dancehall Dictionary, which defines himbo as 'a young man paid for his sexual services by an older woman," is 'tadpole'.[24]

In a speech on hookup culture at Chico State University, a presenter included himbo on a list of synonyms for 'sexually promiscuous man' that also included Casanova, ladies man, prostitute, man hoe, and Benedict".[25]

In a UK reader survey reported in the book Language, Power and Society, himbo was offered as a synonym for toy boy, along with other expressions like joy boy, lap chap, and boncubine.[26]

Some commentators have continued in the late 20th and early 21st centuries to use the original term "bimbo" when referring to someone as an unintelligent, vacuous, or brutish man, such as a reporter's description of Dan Quayle[27] or Stephen Richter's reflections on Donald Trump.[28][29] In 2020, Biden got the same treatment.[30]


  1. ^ a b c Merriam Webster Dictionary, retrieved January 22, 2017
  2. ^ Etymology online retrieved January 23, 2017
  3. ^ a b Tom Dalzell, Terry Victor, The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, Routledge, Nov 27, 2014
  4. ^ Aaron Peckham, Urban Dictionary: Freshest Street Slang Defined, Andrews McMeel Publishing, Apr 24, 2012, p.
  5. ^ [1] Morgan Sung, In defense of himbos: the hot simple men I love to love, Mashable, Jun 22, 2020
  6. ^ Sherry Sylvester, "Hollywood Hunks-Just a Bunch of Himbos", CNN Los Angeles, 1995
  7. ^ a b Susan Campbell, "Man As Object Becomes A Himbo", The Sun-Sentinel, June 16, 1994, retrieved January 23, 2017
  8. ^ Michael S. Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History Oxford University Press, 2012 -
  9. ^ Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Beyond the Double Bind: Women and Leadership, Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 193-194
  10. ^ TV Guide, 1999, retrieved January 23, 2017
  11. ^ Girls Can Be Bimbos, Can Guys Be Himbos? Today, 2006, retrieved January 23, 2017
  12. ^ Frodo Is Great... Who Is That!!? Extended Cut (2004), retrieved 2022-04-19
  13. ^ TV Guide, 2006, retrieved January 23, 2017
  14. ^ "Ugly Betty: Children with issues | EW.com".
  15. ^ Lauren Bans, "The Rise of the Himbo: Bimbos with Balls," GQ, May 9, 2012
  16. ^ a b Jessica Rozler, Andrea Lavinthal, The Hookup Handbook: A Single Girl's Guide to Living It Up, Simon and Schuster, Jun 15, 2010
  17. ^ Noreen Malone, The Rise of the Himbo, Why Playing Dumb Is Working For Ryan Lochte, New Republic, August 2, 2012
  18. ^ Christian Toto,"The Rise of the Himbo and the Problem of Reverse Objectification," Acculturated.com, August 11, 2016 retrieved January 24, 2016/
  19. ^ "What's a Himbo? And Why Is the Internet Obsessed With Them?". InsideHook. 2020-08-06. Retrieved 2022-05-01.
  20. ^ Whalen, Andrew. "What Is a 'Himbo' and Is It OK to Say?". Newsweek.com. Retrieved 2022-05-01.
  21. ^ "The return of the 'himbo': the antidote to toxic masculinity | Fashion". The Guardian. Retrieved 2022-05-01.
  22. ^ Miles Jaffe, The Hamptons Dictionary: The Essential Guide to Class Warfare, Red Wheel Weiser, Apr 1, 2008
  23. ^ Tony Thorne, Dictionary of Contemporary Slang, A&C Black, Feb 27, 2014
  24. ^ Joan Williams, Shawn Grant, Dancehall Dictionary: Learning to speak like a Jamaican, Joan williams, Feb 2, 2014
  25. ^ Anna Lind Thomas, Hooking Up, Alcohol Sex and Regret, Chico State University, p. 31
  26. ^ Linda Thomas, Shân Wareing, Language, Society and Power: An Introduction, Routledge, Sep 10, 2012
  27. ^ Kathleen Hall, Beyond the Double Bind: Women and Leadership, Jamieson Oxford University Press, 1995
  28. ^ Stephen Richter,"Donald Trump is the True Bimbo", Salon.com, August 12, 2015
  29. ^ Stephen Richter, "Donald Trump Outs Himself as a Bimbo," The Globalist, April 4, 2016
  30. ^ Tennessee Star, May 9, 2020 Crom Carmichael explains why Joe Biden is a bimbo.