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See more synonyms for bugbear on Thesaurus.com
  1. any source, real or imaginary, of needless fright or fear.
  2. a persistent problem or source of annoyance.
  3. Folklore. a goblin that eats up naughty children.
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Origin of bugbear

First recorded in 1570–80; bug2 + bear2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for bugbear

gremlin, scare, hobgoblin, ogre, apprehension, bugaboo, fear, bogey, dread, threat, terror, problem, goblin, specter, wraith, loup-garou, bogy, boogeyman

Examples from the Web for bugbear

Historical Examples of bugbear

  • I laughed at his bugbear and flung Colonel Corkran in his teeth.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • If he has not ceased to be an idol, he has at any rate ceased to be a bugbear.

  • The chest was soon filled with quilts and that bugbear was gone from her life.


    Anna Balmer Myers

  • I will keep each faction in awe by the bugbear of the other's supremacy.

    The Infernal Marriage

    Benjamin Disraeli

  • We hear of the prevention of unemployment, the removal of the bugbear of "losing the job."

British Dictionary definitions for bugbear


  1. a thing that causes obsessive fear or anxiety
  2. (in English folklore) a goblin said to eat naughty children and thought to be in the form of a bear
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Word Origin for bugbear

C16: from bug ² + bear ²; compare bugaboo
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 bugbear


1580s, a sort of demon in the form of a bear that eats small children, also "object of dread" (whether real or not), from obsolete bug "goblin, scarecrow" (see bug (n.)) + bear (n.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper