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Etymology 1Edit

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).


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


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.
    • 2017 September 7, Ferdinand Mount, “Umbrageousness”, in London Review of Books[1]:
      Lalvani does not undervalue the achievements of the Mughal Empire, but its canals and irrigation tanks and roads had fallen into decay after the terrible Persian and Afghan invasions of the mid-18th century. 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.
    • Bible, 1 Kings xxii. 6
      Shall I go [] to battle, or shall I forbear?
    • c. 1596-97, William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act III scene ii[2]:
      I pray you, tarry; pause a day or two
      Before you hazard; for, in choosing wrong,
      I lose your company: therefore, forbear awhile.
  3. (intransitive) To refuse; to decline; to withsay; to unheed.
    • 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.

Derived termsEdit


Etymology 2Edit



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 [3]
      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[4]:
      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: