What is a Booby Prize?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

In the world of contests, there are grand prizes, consolation prizes, honorable mentions and even certificates of participation. One type of prize, however, is not quite as welcome as the others. This dubious honor is often called a booby prize. A booby prize is usually meant to be taken as a joke by the recipient and the audience, although some contestants may feel a bit insulted by the nature or presentation of a booby prize. Not all contests feature the awarding of a booby prize, and those that do often present them to contestants who are in on the joke.

Game show contestants sometimes win a booby prize.
Game show contestants sometimes win a booby prize.

A booby prize could be related to the theme of a contest, such as the awarding of a dozen rotten eggs to the loser of a chicken-plucking contest at a county fair. The sponsors of a pizza-eating contest might offer a giant bottle of antacid tablets as a booby prize. Game show contestants may be offered the chance to win a new car, or a booby prize of an oversized hitch hiker's thumb. The point of a booby prize is not necessarily to insult the recipient, but to inject some levity into the proceedings. Some competitions can become very heated, so the presentation of a booby prize can help to remind contestants not to take things too seriously.

The booby prize most likely takes it's name from the slang use of "boob", meaning someone who is a little slow on the uptake. Some contest sponsors may avoid using the term "booby prize" in a sentence, but recipients usually understand the difference between a consolation prize of some value and a booby prize with little to none. Many contest sponsors have stopped offering booby prizes, since there's no guarantee certain recipients might not fully appreciate the humor behind the gesture.

In at least one case, the presentation of a booby prize has backfired on the contest sponsors. The sponsors of one local contest ostensibly offered the winner a new Toyota automobile. The contest required employees to raise as much money as they could within a month, and the employee with the highest total would win the Toyota. When the winning employee came to claim her prize, the contest sponsors presented her with a toy action figure of the Star Wars character Yoda. It was intended to be a booby prize, a "toy Yoda", not an actual Toyota automobile. The employee successfully sued the contest sponsors for not disclosing the true nature of the prize.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


One of the best booby prizes I can think of is the "Mr. Irrelevant" title that they use for the last pick in the NFL Draft.

I have heard that each years Mr. Irrelevant is awarded certain prizes, such as a trip to Disneyland for him and his family, as well as a trophy that depicts a football player fumbling a football.

The joke in this case is that the player selected is the worst player selected in the draft and they did accomplish something few people have done, but they have hundreds of players picked ahead of them.


I have received a booby prize on way too many occasions and although they are perceived to be comedic in form and are just in good fun from my experience I have seen some to be very lewd and sometimes quite mean.

Although this has not happened very often I do have to persuade people that the point of a booby prize is to create some joke that people will understand, without hurting feelings. If the people who receive the booby prize are offended or if people do not get the joke, then it has failed as a booby prize. People choosing to give out a booby prize need to well think out what exactly they need to give out as a booby prize and give plenty of thought to is so it does not blow up in their face.


@jmc88 - That is an interesting prize to give out, but I wonder if they could have thought it out a little more and given out something that could have been associated with golf.

Although I think that could be considered a booby prize I only think that it is so because it was reserved for the "losers" and they sought to make a joke out of it. What they needed to do was to find something hilarious, that is associated with golf that would have maybe reflected bad play on the course instead of just throwing a bunch of child's toys together that they bought very cheaply at a dollar store.


I once was in a golf tournament on the last place team and we received a booby prize of a bunch of child's toys that was labeled "losers." The only reason I would consider this a booby prize was the fact that it was a prize reserved for last place and had a bit of comedy to it.

When they presented it they gave out third place, followed by second place, then right before they gave out the first place prize they had a very long melodramatic pause and revealed that there was a prize for the last place team, much to our surprise. We were expecting a ridiculously small trophy but instead were given something that labeled us losers and it in contained something that we would never use.

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