bug·​bear | \ ˈbəg-ˌber How to pronounce bugbear (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Taxation without representation was famously a bugbear of American colonists in the 18th century. The Economist, "Charlemagne Let expats vote in the countries where they live," 4 July 2020 The notion that Bolton, a longtime bugbear of Democrats who has worked in four Republican administrations, was operating furtively within the White House to advance liberal objectives bemused some who have dealt with him. Anchorage Daily News, "Anatomy of a smear: How John Bolton became the target of the pro-Trump internet," 29 Jan. 2020 Farmer distress has been a bugbear in the Indian economy, and it was anticipated that the government may announce schemes to address the sector’s woes. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "India aims to leverage its growing aviation infra to augment its agriculture sector," 31 Jan. 2020 And what prevents that demonstration are not the bugbears of national populists: international treaties, the EU, or an influx of foreigners. Adam Tooze, The New York Review of Books, "How ‘Big Law’ Makes Big Money," 28 Jan. 2020 The new drivers also fix some bugbears that’ve been irritating AMD users. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, "AMD adds Radeon Image Sharpening to some Radeon RX 400- and 500-series graphics cards," 12 Sep. 2019 Lounger-hogging like this is a constant bugbear for cruise lines; indeed, a few years ago, Carnival tested a program where staffers would patrol loungers like pool police. Mark Ellwood, Condé Nast Traveler, "Cruise Ship Etiquette Tips: A Primer For Before You Sail," 4 Sep. 2019 Fellow curmudgeons will also recognize all of my bugbears as losing battles. Lionel Shriver, Harper's magazine, "Semantic Drift," 22 July 2019 For many in the field of sustainable investing, one of the biggest bugbears has been a lack of standardization. Eshe Nelson, Quartz, "What counts as a “green” investment, anyway?," 25 June 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of bugbear

1552, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about bugbear

Time Traveler for bugbear

Time Traveler

The first known use of bugbear was in 1552

See more words from the same year

Statistics for bugbear

Cite this Entry

“Bugbear.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bugbear. Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for bugbear


How to pronounce bugbear (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of bugbear

: something that causes problems or annoys people

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on bugbear

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz

  • monster werewolf photo
  • Which is a synonym of werewolf?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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