bugbear

play
noun bug·bear \ -ˌber \
Updated on: 11 Sep 2017

Definition of bugbear

1 :an imaginary goblin or specter used to excite fear
2 a :an object or source of dread
b :a continuing source of irritation :problem

bugbear was our Word of the Day on 11/06/2012. Hear the podcast!

Examples of bugbear in a Sentence

  1. The biggest bugbear of the skiing business is a winter with no snow.

  2. communism was once the nation's biggest bugbear

Recent Examples of bugbear from the Web

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.

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.

First Known Use of bugbear

1552


BUGBEAR Defined for English Language Learners

bugbear

play
noun

Definition of bugbear for English Language Learners

  • : something that causes problems or annoys people



Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

all at once

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Merriam-Webster's New Words Quiz—Fall 2017 Edition!

  • young-plant-shoots
  • Which of the following is a new sense of the word bunny?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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