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The word forbeare (sense 1) as appearing in Shakespeare's epitaph which has been rendered separately on a plaque in the background.

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English forberen, from Old English forberan (to forbear, abstain from, refrain; suffer, endure, tolerate, humor; restrain; do without), from Proto-Germanic *fraberaną (to hold back, endure); equivalent to for- +‎ bear. Cognate with Old Frisian forbera (to forfeit), Middle High German verbërn (to have not; abstain; refrain from; avoid) (Cimbrian forbèeran), Gothic 𐍆𐍂𐌰𐌱𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌰𐌽 (frabairan, to endure).

Alternative forms[edit]


  • (UK) IPA(key): /fɔːˈbɛə/
  • (US) IPA(key): /fɔɹˈbɛɚ/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛə(ɹ)


forbear (third-person singular simple present forbears, present participle forbearing, simple past forbore, past participle forborne or (archaic) forborn)

  1. (transitive) To keep away from; to avoid; to abstain from.
    • 1649, “185. The Trial of Colonel John Morris, Governor of Pontefract Castle; at the Assizes at the Castle of York, before Mr. John Puleston, and Mr. Baron Thorpe, Justices of Assize, for High Treason: []”, in [William] Cobbett, editor, Cobbett’s Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings for High Treason and Other Crimes and Misdemeanours from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, volume IV, London: Printed by Thomas Curson Hansard, []; published by R. Bagshaw [et al.], published 1809, →OCLC, column 1266:
      Mr. Sheriff, I desire that this manacling may be forborn: if you please to clap a guard of a hundred men upon us, I shall pay for it. This is not only a disgrace to me, but in general to all soldiers; which doth more trouble me than the loss of my life.
    • 1926, T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, New York: Anchor, published 1991, page 170:
      Poor Arabs wondered why I had no mare; I forbore to puzzle them by incomprehensible talk of hardening myself, or confess I would rather walk than ride for sparing of animals:
    • 2017 September 7, Ferdinand Mount, “Umbrageousness”, in London Review of Books[1]:
      For his part, Tharoor cannot forbear to praise the achievements of men like Arthur Cotton, whose Godavari Delta irrigation scheme remains much as he left it in 1852.
  2. (intransitive) To refrain from proceeding; to pause; to delay.
  3. (intransitive) To refuse; to decline; to withsay; to unheed.
  4. (intransitive) To control oneself when provoked.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]



forbear (plural forbears)

  1. Alternative spelling of forebear
    • [1906] 2004, Memoirs of the Lord of Joinville, Ethel Wedgwood tr.
      Sirs, I am quite sure that the King of England's forbears rightly and justly lost the conquered lands that I hold [...]
    • [1936] 2004, Raymond William Firth, We the Tikopia [2]
      One does not take one’s family name therefrom, and again the position of the mother in that group is determined through her father and his male forbears in turn; this too is a patrilineal group.
    • 1997, H. L. Hix, Understanding W. S. Merwin[3]:
      Beginning with the bald declaration “I think I was cold in the womb,” the speaker in “The Forbears” then decides that his brother (who died soon after birth) must also have been cold in the womb, like his grandfather John and the forbears who antedated John: