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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
    • 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.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

See alsoEdit


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

  1. (transitive) To alarm with idle phantoms.


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