It is one of the oldest words used to name homosexual men and we can find this same expression and its derivatives in many European languages, such as Bujarrón in Spanish, Buzerant in Slovak, Bugger in English, Buggerone in Italian or Bougre in German.
It has its origin in the medieval Latin voice “bulgarus” and it refers to the Bulgarians, who the Catholic church identifies with the Bogomil heresy of Manichean tendency from the 10th century on. Among other things they rejected the religious hierarchy and some sacraments like marriage. In the beginning, therefore, the term only referred to the heretics in a very generic way, but it did not take long to relate these heretics to a whole collection of practices considered aberrant and sinful, among which those of a sexual nature were evidently signaled.
Thus, in the 12th century France, the term Bogre (previous form of Bougre) appeared to point to heretics, and in the 13th century we know the use of the feminized term Bogresse existed, curiously used to name women accused of practices “against nature” (understanding them as any type of non-reproductive sexual practice). In this way we can see how, with a higher frequency, heresy began to be associated with sodomy, until in the 14th century, both in France and in Italy, the term became synonymous of sodomite, the later being used to name the top homosexual man in opposition to the bottom, for which other terms like “Bardache” were preferred.
This meaning will be extended to other countries such as Spain, where the first written reference of Bujarrón dates from 1465, and it is still used today with this meaning in Spanish-speaking countries. In the United Kingdom the term Buggery, which appeared for the first time in 1333 related to heresy, is not documented in its sexual sense until the Buggery Act (1533), a law that punished sodomy. Bugger, with this sense, is still used to a greater or lesser extent at present.
However in France the term Bougre and its derivatives followed a different evolution and today they no longer refer to heretics or homosexuals, having even lost many of their negative connotations.
From the end of the 16th century, the term Bougre began to be trivialize and acquired a certain condescending and indulgent tone, although in general and above all in the most cultured and academic language maintained the pejorative character associated with sodomy. It was even mixed with some sympathy, being used in phrases like “un bon bougre” (a good man) or “un pauvre bougre” (a poor man or even a poor wretch, in the most pious and condescending sense). We also find it used in an admiring way :”ah, le bougre !!” or even as a synonym for “lad or kid” in some of the French regional dialectal variants.
To these uses, over time, other uses will be added, such as “bougre of …” (sort of …) followed by some kind of pejorative adjective such as “kind of idiot” or “kind of stingy “, or simply used as a cursing word with no concrete meaning of the type “bougre!” (shit !, fuck!). And the same has been happening with the derivative terms such as Bougrerie which has gone from meaning sodomy to refer to “trickery”, or Bougrement that could be translated as “too much” or “extremely”. Nowadays, in the French language, the association of the term Bougre to sodomy is not evident and belongs to what we can call ancient French.
Variations: Bougrant, Bougre, Bougré, Bougrerie, Bougeron, Bougeronner, Bougeronnerie, Bougrin, Bougrinière, Bougrino, Bigre ,Bigreme.