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What are the Boondocks?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Boondocks or boonies is a term that is usually associated with a remote area that is sparsely populated, such as the country outside cities or towns. Contemporary usage of the word is sometimes intended to refer to a rural area that is not only remote but also backward or antiquated in technology or thinking. However, the broader usage simply refers to a location that remains largely undeveloped for anything other than farming.

The exact origin of the term boondocks is unclear. One common theory is that the word is an Americanized version of the Tagalog word bundok which refers to mountains. According to this theory, American soldiers serving in the Philippines during World War II coined the phrase, and passed in on to the British forces in the area. The phrase was meant to refer to areas of the Philippines where the enemy could successfully hide in the mountains and remain undetected by Allied forces.

Since the middle of the 20th century, boondocks has been used to refer to sections of the country that remain uncongested and free from many of the issues associated with life in an urban area. Persons living in rural areas often use boondocks as an affectionate term for their locale, noting the clean air, open spaces, and the perceived lack of crime and other vices that are often attributed to big cities. Within this context, the boondocks are viewed as a desirable condition where the pace of life is less stressful and it is possible to engage in activities that promote a positive way of life.

However, not everyone uses boondocks to refer to a desirable geographical location. Often, the term is utilized to describe an area that is considered backward and just shy of being uninhabitable. The description may be based on the fact that the rural location in question is far removed from any major city, or even a town of significant size. In other instances, it may refer to a lack of technology in the area. For example, a person who is used to utilizing a cable modem or some other broadband application for connecting to the Internet may consider a remote area that is served by dial up services only to be “in the boondocks.”

The term may also be used to refer to an area where persons are thought to hold political, social, or religious views that are not progressive in nature. When used in a derogatory fashion, boondocks is usually intended to imply an inferior status, rather than a difference in the type of geographical location.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon117097 — On Oct 09, 2010

boon is an old word for flax, and it was loaded from the plantations off the dock onto the river boats, hence boondocks. and obviously miles from anywhere, so it became a word for a rural area.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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