1 of 2


both·​er ˈbä-t͟hər How to pronounce bother (audio)
bothered; bothering ˈbät͟h-riŋ How to pronounce bother (audio)

transitive verb

: to annoy especially by petty provocation : irk
It bothers her when people litter.
bothered by the itchy tag on his shirt
: to intrude upon : pester
Don't bother him when he's working.
: to cause to be somewhat anxious or concerned
My stomach is bothering me.
often used interjectionally
Oh, bother!

intransitive verb

: to become concerned
wouldn't bother with details
: to take pains (see pain entry 1 sense 3) : take the trouble
never bothered to ask


2 of 2


: a state of petty discomfort, annoyance, or worry
when scenery gets mixed up with our personal bothers all the virtue goes out of itEdith Wharton
: something that causes petty annoyance or worry
Fixing it would be too much of a bother.
Sorry to be such a bother, but I need your help.
: fuss, inconvenience
doesn't want the bother of filling out all the forms again
Choose the Right Synonym for bother

annoy, vex, irk, bother mean to upset a person's composure.

annoy implies a wearing on the nerves by persistent petty unpleasantness.

their constant complaining annoys us

vex implies greater provocation and stronger disturbance and usually connotes anger but sometimes perplexity or anxiety.

vexed by her son's failure to clean his room

irk stresses difficulty in enduring and the resulting weariness or impatience of spirit.

careless waste irks the boss

bother suggests interference with comfort or peace of mind.

don't bother me while I'm reading

Example Sentences

Verb He's so easygoing. Nothing seems to bother him. Something he said at the meeting has been bothering me. The entire car trip was filled with complaints like, “Mom, David keeps bothering me!” and “Will you tell him to quit bothering me?”. Mother used to cook elaborate dinners, but with only herself to cook for, she doesn't bother anymore. “Should I call later?” “No, don't bother.” I'm not going to bother with the details. Noun Replacing the windows could be more of a bother than it's worth. I know what a bother driving into the city can be this time of day. “Sorry to bother you.” “That's okay, it's no bother at all.” I considered replacing that part of the floor but decided it wasn't worth the bother. He doesn't want the bother of filling out all those forms again. Will you mail this for me? It will save me the bother of going to the post office. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
No one seemed to care that party leaders House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did not bother to show up. Jess Bidgood,, 3 Mar. 2023 And, our tester reported that while the fragrance from the spray smelled good on-body (light and fresh), the scent did linger in the room for hours after application, which might bother some people. Rachael Schultz, Verywell Health, 3 Mar. 2023 The difference was Wednesday’s event didn’t bother managing expectations by billing it from the outset as a recruiting platform to attract top engineering talent. Bychristiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 2 Mar. 2023 For example, Young’s decision to skip throwing in Indianapolis in favor of throwing at his Pro Day doesn’t bother Steichen at all. The Indianapolis Star, 2 Mar. 2023 What to Consider: Compared to some other more expensive models, the Roam is fairly bulky, which may bother the more aesthetically-conscious cyclist. Nathan Borchelt, Travel + Leisure, 10 Feb. 2023 Some people can find surprises super flattering, like a real gift, a real give, not a selfish gift, but a real give that someone will think about all the details, and not bother them with it, and just present them with something wonderful. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, 9 Feb. 2023 Many skin conditions bother people and inspire them to search for answers on Twitter, the internet, or other social media. Christina Oehler, Health, 5 Feb. 2023 There's a long tradition of movies where kids just bother adults, much to the delight of other kids everywhere (and the chagrin of their parents). Marisa Lascala, Good Housekeeping, 31 Jan. 2023
The boa hasn't been the only bother of the animal variety recently. Forrest Brown, CNN, 6 Jan. 2023 Saying that black women are on average less attractive than others was what got evolutionary psychologist and blogger Satoshi Kanazawa into spot of bother last year. Neuroskeptic, Discover Magazine, 18 Feb. 2012 The idea being, again, like there’s no real chance at mobility anyway, so why bother. Quartz Staff, Quartz, 3 Nov. 2022 The cold didn’t much bother Engstrom, who had advanced multiple sclerosis, used an electronic wheelchair and had little feeling in his legs. Katelyn Ferral, Journal Sentinel, 21 Dec. 2022 Both of us agree the shrimp is sweet and springy and the fried chicken is a why bother. Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, 25 Nov. 2022 Publicly, the Díaz regime tried to reassure Mexicans and U.S. investors that the magonistas were only a minor bother. Geraldo Cadava, The New Yorker, 5 Oct. 2022 The restaurant offers casual, all-day dining and prime views of the Forest Oasis waterpark and lazy river, allowing guests to find provisions without the bother of sporting a shirt or shoes. Megha Mcswain, Chron, 19 Dec. 2022 The entire custom of giving and accepting presents is being gutted to remove from it the bother of thought and effort. Jacobina Martin, Washington Post, 24 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bother.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



of obscure origin

Note: Early attestations strongly associate the word with Ireland, though if bother is authentically Hiberno-English, the interdental consonant must be secondary, perhaps by association with earlier pother entry 1, itself of obscure origin. A hypothetical link with Irish bodhar "deaf, confused" is improbable given that the internal dental consonant in Irish was lost by 1300.


noun derivative of bother entry 1

First Known Use


circa 1745, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1761, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of bother was circa 1745

Dictionary Entries Near bother

Cite this Entry

“Bother.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
both·​er ˈbät͟h-ər How to pronounce bother (audio)
bothered; bothering -(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce bother (audio)
: to upset often with minor details : annoy
: to intrude upon : interrupt
: to cause to be worried or concerned
: to become concerned
: to take the trouble : make an effort
don't bother to knock


2 of 2 noun
: the state of being bothered
: someone or something that bothers in a small way
what a bother a cold can be

More from Merriam-Webster on bother

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