Borrowed from Scots bauther, bather (to bother). Origin unknown. Perhaps related to Scots pother (to make a stir or commotion, bustle), also of unknown origin. Compare English pother (to poke, prod), variant of potter (to poke). More at potter. Perhaps related to Irish bodhaire (noise), Irish bodhraim (to deafen, annoy).[1]



bother (third-person singular simple present bothers, present participle bothering, simple past and past participle bothered)

  1. (transitive) To annoy, to disturb, to irritate.
    Synonyms: annoy, disturb, irritate, put out, vex; see also Thesaurus:annoy
    Would it bother you if I smoked?
  2. (intransitive) To feel care or anxiety; to make or take trouble; to be troublesome.
    Synonyms: care, mind; see also Thesaurus:care
    Why do I even bother to try?
    • 1876–1877, Henry James, Jr., chapter V, in The American, Boston, Mass.: James R[ipley] Osgood and Company, [], published 5 May 1877, OCLC 4655661, page 87:
      To expand, without bothering about it—without shiftless timidity on one side, or loquacious eagerness on the other—to the full compass of what he would have called a "pleasant" experience, was Newman's most definite programme of life.
  3. (intransitive) To do something which is of negligible inconvenience.
    You didn’t even bother to close the door.
    • 1986, Vladimir Naumovich Zharkov, William B. Hubbard, transl., Interior Structure of the Earth and Planets, CRC Press, →ISBN, page 273:
      An egg and rasher of bacon for breakfast supply quite enough nitrogenous food for the day. Sometimes I have a treat. A cauliflower, etc. But generally I can't be bothered.
    • 1991, Raymond Buckland, Scottish Witchcraft: The History and Magick of the Picts, Llewellyn Worldwide, →ISBN, page 81:
      This takes effort. It can be a lot of work. So, you see, magick is not an easy short-cut to achieving something because you can't be bothered to get it any other way.
    • 1992, Victoria Branden, In Defence of Plain English: The Decline and Fall of Literacy in Canada, Dundurn, →ISBN, page 88:
      I've been using a computer instead of a typewriter for four years now, but I can't speak the language at all. I don't need it, and I can't be bothered unless it's going to be useful. The only kind of mouse I recognize is the four-legged variety, and I can't tell a bit from a byte.

Usage notesEdit

Derived termsEdit


  • Irish: badráil
  • Jersey Dutch: boddere



  1. ^ Concise Oxford English Dictionary 2011


bother (countable and uncountable, plural bothers)

  1. Fuss, ado.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:commotion
    There was a bit of bother at the hairdresser's when they couldn't find my appointment in the book.
    • 2015 January 18, Monty Munford, “What’s the point of carrying a mobile phone nowadays?”, in The Daily Telegraph[1]:
      It was a 15-minute return trip to walk back home to pick up my device, but I weighed it up and decided that it wasn’t worth the bother.
  2. Trouble, inconvenience.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:nuisance
    Yes, I can do that for you - it's no bother.

Derived termsEdit




  1. A mild expression of annoyance.
    • 1908, Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, London: Wordsworth Classics, published 1993, page 11:
      [H]e suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said "Bother!" and "Oh blow!" and also "Hang spring-cleaning!" and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat.
    • 1926, A A Milne, Winnie the Pooh, Methuen & Co., Ltd., Chapter 2 ...in which Pooh goes visiting and gets into a tight place:
      "Oh, help!" said Pooh. "I'd better go back."
      "Oh, bother!" said Pooh. "I shall have to go on."
      "I can't do either!" said Pooh. "Oh, help and bother!"


Derived termsEdit