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See also: bugaboo


Alternative forms[edit]


An earlier form was seen in buggybow, probably an alteration of bugbear (see bug), but connected by Chapman ("Dictionary of American Slang") with Bugibu, demon in the Old French poem Aliscans from 1141, which is perhaps of Celtic origin as a pagan god (compare Cornish buccaboo (devil), from bucca (bogle, goblin)). Alternatively, bug +‎ a +‎ boo. For a similar semantic development from a heathen god to demon to monster, compare etymology of French lutin.


  • IPA(key): /ˈbʌɡəbuː/
  • (file)


bug-a-boo (plural bug-a-boos)

  1. A mythical, nocturnal creature; a hobgoblin.
    • 1776, William Kenrick, London review of English and foreign literature[1], page 316:
      The German ubu, as well as the French bibou, is also used for bug-a-boo, hobgoblin, or any other fantastical, terrific nocturnal object.
  2. Any imagined fear or threat, or a fear presumed larger than it really is.
    • 1949, – George R. Stewart, Earth Abides, page 80:
      ...a fear had come upon them, and they had a kind of bug-a-boo terror about roving gangsters.
    • 2008, Gerald Stanley Lee, Crowds, →ISBN, page 543:
      There is the Goody-good Bug-a-boo, the Consistency Bug-a-boo, and the Bug-a-boo that Thomas Jefferson if he were living now, would never never ride in a carriage.
      Each of these bug-a-boos in the general mistiness and muddleheadedness of the time can be seen going about, saying "Boo! Boo!" to this democracy ...


  • (hostile supernatural creature): See goblin

See also[edit]