bug·​a·​boo | \ ˈbə-gə-ˌbü How to pronounce bugaboo (audio) \
plural bugaboos

Definition of bugaboo

1 : an imaginary object of fear
2 : bugbear sense 2 also : something that causes fear or distress out of proportion to its importance

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Examples of bugaboo in a Sentence

politicians complaining about that old bugaboo, high oil prices doing one's tax returns are a real bugaboo for some people
Recent Examples on the Web Of late, WSU’s pass defense has been the major bugaboo. oregonlive, "Is Washington State’s Anthony Gordon the country’s best QB? Is Mike Leach leaving Pullman? Five questions answered by a WSU football expert," 21 Nov. 2019 The 2019 bugaboo for Rivers had been unforced errors. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: For Chargers, a big-stage debacle that Philip Rivers was fortunate to survive," 14 Oct. 2019 In their 7-4 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday, Colorado flashed some enticing potential, but ultimately, the same old bugaboo reared its ugly head. Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post, "Rockies blow ninth-inning lead; right-hander Jeff Hoffman turns in solid start vs. Mets," 18 Sep. 2019 My bugaboo was players who criticized their partner when any fault was their own. Frank Stewart, The Mercury News, "Bridge: Sept. 17, 2019," 17 Sep. 2019 Government housing policies and federal regulators played an instrumental part in the housing crisis, no matter how much Democrats want to blame it all on excessive greed or market failure or racial animus or some other bugaboo. Jason L. Riley, WSJ, "Democrats May Inflate Another Housing Bubble," 9 July 2019 UF’s issues go beyond a new-look offensive line, which many thought would be the biggest bugaboo. Ross Dellenger, SI.com, "No. 8 Florida Edges Miami, but Buzz Surrounding Top-10 Ranking Dissipates," 24 Aug. 2019 The plan finder upgrade has emerged as a bugaboo for counselors at free state Medicare assistance programs operated out of senior centers across the country. BostonGlobe.com, "Federal officials are now racing against an Oct. 15 deadline to fix the flaw in their redesign — reinstating a function enabling total-cost comparisons in competing plans — before tens of millions of Medicare beneficiaries log in to select the cheapest drug plans for the coming year.," 11 Sep. 2019 But the bugaboo is that climate change is a slippery little devil. Gary Peterson, The Mercury News, "Report: Warriors’ Chase Center could be impacted by sea level rise by 2100," 5 Aug. 2019

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

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First Known Use of bugaboo

1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for bugaboo

earlier buggybow, bugger-bo, of unknown origin

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Time Traveler for bugaboo

Time Traveler

The first known use of bugaboo was in 1598

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Statistics for bugaboo

Last Updated

12 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Bugaboo.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bugaboo. Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for bugaboo


How to pronounce bugaboo (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of bugaboo

US, often disapproving : something that makes people very worried or upset

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More from Merriam-Webster on bugaboo

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bugaboo

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bugaboo

Spanish Central: Translation of bugaboo

Nglish: Translation of bugaboo for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bugaboo for Arabic Speakers

Comments on bugaboo

What made you want to look up bugaboo? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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