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for·​bear fȯr-ˈber How to pronounce forbear (audio)
forbore fȯr-ˈbȯr How to pronounce forbear (audio)
; forborne fȯr-ˈbȯrn How to pronounce forbear (audio)
; forbearing

transitive verb

: to hold oneself back from especially with an effort
forbore mentioning the incident
tried to forbear making rash judgments
obsolete : to do without
obsolete : to leave alone : shun
forbear his presenceWilliam Shakespeare

intransitive verb

: hold back, abstain
have forborne from taking part in any controversyAbraham Lincoln
: to control oneself when provoked : be patient
forbore with his friend's failings
forbearer noun


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less common spelling of forebear

: ancestor, forefather
also : precursor
usually used in plural
His forebears fought in the American Civil War.

Examples of forbear in a Sentence

Verb He carefully forbore any mention of her name for fear of upsetting them. We decided to forbear provoking him any further. We decided to forbear from provoking him any further. He forebore to mention her name.
Recent Examples on the Web
The limitation of unanimous consent agreements is that on matters of controversy, senators are not going to mutually agree to forbear. Jay Cost, Washington Examiner, 29 Apr. 2021 So, if a person is enacting their right to resistance, then bystanders have an obligation to forbear and not to interfere. TheWeek, 12 Apr. 2020 But crucially, the FCC did not forbear from a few parts of Title II that protect consumers in other ways. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, 12 July 2017
The march of millions of Russians carrying images of their dead forbears in parades across the country became a feature of the May 9 Victory Day celebration, marking the Russian triumph in the Great Patriotic War. Roger Cohen Nanna Heitmann, New York Times, 6 Aug. 2023 Other families, such as the Queens and the Mahoneys, traced their ancestry to a female forbear who was considered non-White but who had spent time in England before arriving in Maryland. Washington Post, 11 Dec. 2020 Three decades ago, Likud, then a more traditional conservative party, shunned Mr. Ben-Gvir’s ideological forbear, Meir Kahane, for being too extreme. Patrick Kingsley, New York Times, 24 Oct. 2022 Bellatine and Isaac know nothing of this Russian forbear, having both distanced themselves from their roots. Wendy Smith, Washington Post, 27 Sep. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'forbear.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English forberen, from Old English forberan to endure, do without, from for- + beran to bear

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of forbear was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near forbear

Cite this Entry

“Forbear.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
for·​bear fȯr-ˈba(ə)r How to pronounce forbear (audio)
forbore -ˈbō(ə)r How to pronounce forbear (audio)
; forborne -ˈbō(ə)rn How to pronounce forbear (audio)
; forbearing
: to hold back or keep from : abstain
: to be patient when annoyed
forbearer noun


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variant of forebear

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