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See also: bug-bear


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Alternative forms[edit]


From obsolete meaning of bug (something terrifying) +‎ bear.[1][2] See Middle English bugge, modern bogey.



bugbear (plural bugbears)

  1. An ongoing problem; a recurring obstacle or adversity.
  2. A source of dread; resentment; or irritation. [from late 16th c.]
    Synonym: pet peeve
    • 1738, Alexander Pope, Epistle I of the First Book of Horace; to Lord Bolingbroke
      But, to the world no bugbear is so great
      As want of figure and a small estate.
    • 1841, Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop, chapter 3
      What have I done to be made a bugbear of, and to be shunned and dreaded as if I brought the plague?
  3. (archaic) An imaginary creature meant to inspire fear in children.
    Synonym: goblin
    • 1900, Carl Schurz, For Truth, Justice and Liberty:
      The partisans of the Administration object to the word “imperialism,” calling it a mere bugbear having no real existence.


See also[edit]


bugbear (third-person singular simple present bugbears, present participle bugbearing, simple past and past participle bugbeared)

  1. (transitive) To alarm with idle phantoms.


  1. ^ Douglas Harper, “bugbear”, in Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2021.
  2. ^ bugbear”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.