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

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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 This approach has raised anew the bugbear of the unassimilable Other in our midst. Michael Luo, The New Yorker, 23 Aug. 2021 The kicker line came in a reference to progressive New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a favorite bugbear of the Republicans who control Texas politics. Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News, 15 June 2021 Fraudulence is the contemporary Black artist’s fear; authenticity, his constant bugbear. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, 14 May 2021 Taxation without representation was famously a bugbear of American colonists in the 18th century. The Economist, 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, 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, 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, 28 Jan. 2020 The new drivers also fix some bugbears that’ve been irritating AMD users. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, 12 Sep. 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.

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First Known Use of bugbear

1552, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

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Time Traveler for bugbear

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The first known use of bugbear was in 1552

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Last Updated

5 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Bugbear.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bugbear. Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for bugbear



English Language Learners Definition of bugbear

: something that causes problems or annoys people

More from Merriam-Webster on bugbear

Nglish: Translation of bugbear for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bugbear for Arabic Speakers


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