Origin of bother

1710–20; orig. Hiberno-English; probably by hypercorrection from bodder, an alternate early form; origin obscure
Related formsun·both·ered, adjectiveun·both·er·ing, adjective

Synonyms for bother

Synonym study

1. Bother, annoy, plague, tease imply persistent interference with one's comfort or peace of mind. Bother suggests causing trouble or weariness or repeatedly interrupting in the midst of pressing duties. To annoy is to vex or irritate by bothering. Plague is a strong word, connoting unremitting annoyance and harassment. To tease is to pester, as by long-continued whining and begging.




one and the other; two together: He met both sisters. Both performances were canceled.


the one as well as the other: Both of us were going to the party.


alike; equally: He is both ready and willing.

Origin of both

1125–75; Middle English bothe, bathe, influenced by Scandinavian (compare Old Norse bāthir both; cognate with German, Dutch beide, Gothic ba tho skipa both (the) ships, Old High German bêde < *bai thai); replacing Middle English bo, ba, Old English bā; cognate with Gothic bai; akin to Latin ambō, Greek ámphō, Lithuanian abù, Sanskrit ubháu
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bother

Contemporary Examples of bother

Historical Examples of bother

  • It doesn't seem to bother him any, so I don't see why it should worry me.

  • He'll win the race in the stretch, an' there won't be many there to bother—they'll all be beat off.


    W. A. Fraser

  • Don't you bother about him—he'll come back to the others fast enough when he's done.


    W. A. Fraser

  • What a fool he was, to bother his head with such get-nowhere questions!


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • "Well, I don't see why you bother to remain in the body at all," I remarked.

    Questionable Shapes

    William Dean Howells

British Dictionary definitions for bother



(tr) to give annoyance, pain, or trouble to; irritatehis bad leg is bothering him again
(tr) to trouble (a person) by repeatedly disturbing; pesterstop bothering your father!
(intr) to take the time or trouble; concern oneselfdon't bother to come with me
(tr) to make (a person) alarmed or confusedthe thought of her husband's return clearly bothered her


a state of worry, trouble, or confusion
a person or thing that causes fuss, trouble, or annoyance
informal a disturbance or fight; trouble (esp in the phrase a spot of bother)


mainly British an exclamation of slight annoyance

Word Origin for bother

C18: perhaps from Irish Gaelic bodhar deaf, vexed; compare Irish Gaelic buairim I vex



  1. the two; two considered togetherboth dogs were dirty
  2. (as pronoun)both are to blame


(coordinating) used preceding words, phrases, or clauses joined by and, used to emphasize that not just one, but also the other of the joined elements is includedboth Ellen and Keith enjoyed the play; both new and exciting

Word Origin for both

C12: from Old Norse bāthir; related to Old High German bēde, Latin ambō, Greek amphō
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for bother

1718, probably from Anglo-Irish pother, because its earliest use was by Irish writers Sheridan, Swift, Sterne. Perhaps from Irish bodhairim "I deafen." Related: Bothered; bothering. As a noun from 1803.


adj., pron.

there are several theories, all similar, and deriving the word from the tendency to say "both the." One is that it is Old English begen (masc.) "both" (from Proto-Germanic *ba, from PIE *bho "both") + extended base. Another traces it to the Proto-Germanic formula represented in Old English by ba þa "both these," from ba (feminine nominative and accusative of begen) + þa, nominative and accusative plural of se "that." A third traces it to Old Norse baðir "both," from *bai thaiz "both the," from Proto-Germanic *thaiz, third person plural pronoun. Cf. similar formation in Old Frisian bethe, Dutch beide, Old High German beide, German beide, Gothic bajoþs.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with bother


In addition to the idioms beginning with both

  • both barrels, with
  • both feet on the ground, with

also see:

  • best of both worlds
  • burn the candle at both ends
  • cut both ways
  • foot in both camps
  • have it both ways
  • play both ends against the middle
  • work both sides of the street
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.