bug·​a·​boo ˈbə-gə-ˌbü How to pronounce bugaboo (audio)
plural bugaboos
: an imaginary object of fear
: bugbear sense 2
also : something that causes fear or distress out of proportion to its importance

Examples of bugaboo in a Sentence

politicians complaining about that old bugaboo, high oil prices doing one's tax returns is a real bugaboo for a lot of people
Recent Examples on the Web The Rain The bugaboo of the Niners’ all game, the precipitation subsided a bit for the game-winning drive, only to come back — with authority — for the Packers’ last possession of the game. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, 20 Jan. 2024 Ever since Henry Hudson sailed through the Narrows, change has been New York’s mantra and bugaboo. Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, 25 Oct. 2023 Those narrow losses dropped Arkansas to 5-12 in one-score games under Pittman, a .294 winning percentage and the same kind of confounding tight-game bugaboo record that frustrated the Bret Bielema regime at Arkansas under which Pittman served from 2013-15. Tom Murphy, Arkansas Online, 10 Oct. 2023 But Smiley ran on a theme of improving quality of life for residents, and the ATVs are a bugaboo. Dan McGowan, BostonGlobe.com, 5 Apr. 2023 Republicans also have been hard at work fanning the flames of various culture wars in recent years—including anti–environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, investment sentiment, which has rapidly become a top Republican bugaboo. Molly Taft, The New Republic, 1 Sep. 2023 One bugaboo for universities has been false positives. IEEE Spectrum, 1 Sep. 2023 Bruce Bochy has a lot more to work with than Woodward or Jeff Banister did, but pitching remains a bugaboo. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, 12 July 2023 In all, the Brewers offense banged out 14 hits -- two shy of tying a season high -- but some of its old bugaboos showed up again as well as the unit finished 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position. Todd Rosiak, Journal Sentinel, 7 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bugaboo.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


earlier buggybow, bugger-bo, of unknown origin

First Known Use

1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of bugaboo was in 1598

Dictionary Entries Near bugaboo

Cite this Entry

“Bugaboo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bugaboo. Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


bug·​a·​boo ˈbəg-ə-ˌbü How to pronounce bugaboo (audio)
plural bugaboos

More from Merriam-Webster on bugaboo

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!