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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), Gothic 𐍆𐍂𐌰𐌱𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌰𐌽 (frabairan, to endure).



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

  1. (transitive) To keep away from; to avoid; to abstain from
  2. (intransitive) To refrain from proceeding; to pause; to delay.
    • Bible, 1 Kings xxii. 6
      Shall I go [] to battle, or shall I forbear?
  3. (intransitive) To refuse; to decline; to give no heed.
    • Bible, Ezekiel ii. 7
      Thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.
  4. (intransitive) To control oneself when provoked.
    • Cowper
      The kindest and the happiest pair / Will find occasion to forbear.
    • Old proverb
      Both bear and forbear.
Related 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 [1]
      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[2]:
      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: