bug·bear | \-ˌber \

Definition of bugbear 

1 : an imaginary goblin or specter used to excite fear

2a : an object or source of dread

b : a continuing source of irritation : problem

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Did You Know?

Bugbear sounds like some kind of grotesque hybrid creature from fable or folklore, and that very well may be what the word's creator was trying to evoke. When the word entered English in the 16th century, it referred to any kind of creature made up to frighten someone-most often a child; in 1592, Thomas Nashe wrote of "Meere bugge-beares to scare boyes." The word combines "bug," an old word for goblin, with "bear," which is perhaps what such made-up creatures were described as resembling. The "source of dread or annoyance" sense came not long after. In the late 20th century, the word found new life as the name of a particular kind of creature in the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

Examples of bugbear in a Sentence

The biggest bugbear of the skiing business is a winter with no snow. communism was once the nation's biggest bugbear

Recent Examples on the Web

Car exports to the U.S., which account for 0.7% of German GDP, according to Citigroup, are a particular bugbear for Mr. Trump. Richard Barley, WSJ, "Tariff Troubles for Germany Won’t Stay in Germany," 3 July 2018 One reason for that is the backing of the European Central Bank (ECB)—ironically, a bugbear of the Italian populists. The Economist, "Italy’s political crisis is roiling financial markets once more," 31 May 2018 The White House announced that Kathy Kraninger would be nominated to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a bugbear for Republicans ever since its creation as part of the Dodd-Frank reforms. The Economist, "Business this week," 23 June 2018 His speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday was a lucid and impassioned defense of multilateral decision-making and free trade – two of Trump’s top bugbears. Peter Ford, The Christian Science Monitor, "In back-to-back visits, Macron and Merkel look for manageable middle with Trump," 27 Apr. 2018 Fans blasted Mourinho for negative tactics, a continual bugbear of supporters pining for the more gung ho style preferred by Sir Alex Ferguson in yester years. SI.com, "Stat Highlights Just How Poor Man Utd Were Against Sevilla in Champions League Misery," 14 Mar. 2018 But others saw another possible motivation: Mr. Nazarbayev may be eager to avoid any suggestion that Kazakhstan is turning its back on Russia and embracing pan-Turkic unity, a bugbear for Russian officials in both tsarist and Soviet times. Andrew Higgins, New York Times, "Kazakhstan Cheers New Alphabet, Except for All Those Apostrophes," 15 Jan. 2018 The unsettling allure of technological dependence has been a bugbear for parents and commentators for years. Ben Popken, NBC News, "Apple investors urge action on iPhone addiction among kids," 8 Jan. 2018 The theme is light and fairly inconsequential, so even those who don’t know the difference between a goblin and a bugbear can still have a blast. Aaron Zimmerman, Nate Anderson, Ars Technica, "Ars Technica’s ultimate board game buyer’s guide," 8 Dec. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bugbear.' 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 bugbear

1552, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

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Dictionary Entries near bugbear






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bug dust

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Time Traveler for bugbear

The first known use of bugbear was in 1552

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English Language Learners Definition of bugbear

: something that causes problems or annoys people

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