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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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

Among other moves, China has already cracked down on trading halts, a major bugbear for foreign investors. Shen Hong, WSJ, "China Counters Selloff by Cutting Markets Some Slack," 24 Jan. 2019 Surely there were more necessary areas to improve, like at center back — a position that was Mourinho’s major bugbear in preseason. Steve Douglas, The Seattle Times, "Sanchez spark still missing for Manchester United," 24 Sep. 2018 Samsung’s other software bugbears are present on the Note 9, too. Dan Seifert, The Verge, "Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: more, more, more," 17 Aug. 2018 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

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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Statistics for bugbear

Last Updated

4 May 2019

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on bugbear

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bugbear

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bugbear

Spanish Central: Translation of bugbear

Nglish: Translation of bugbear for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bugbear for Arabic Speakers

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).


to take the place or position of

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