[ buhg-er, boog- ]
/ ˈbʌg ər, ˈbʊg- /
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verb (used with object)
Verb Phrases
bugger off, Chiefly British Slang. to depart; bug off.
bugger up, Chiefly British Slang. to ruin; spoil; botch.
Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?
Compare sod3.

Origin of bugger

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English bougre, from Anglo-French bugre, from Medieval Latin Bulgarus “heretic,” literally, “Bulgarian,” by association of the Balkans with heretical sects such as the Bogomils and their alleged deviant sexual practices; def. 1 perhaps by reanalysis as bug1 or bug2 + -er1 (cf. booger)

Other definitions for bugger (2 of 2)

[ buhg-er ]
/ ˈbʌg ər /

a person who installs a hidden listening device.

Origin of bugger

First recorded in 1965–70; bug1 + -er1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


More context on bugger

Bugger seems like a completely harmless word, right? Wrong.

While often used informally as an insult (like “jerk”) or to refer to any ole whachamacallit, bugger has also been used as a more offensive vulgar term for “sodomy.”

Bugger ultimately originates from the Medieval Latin Bulgarus, literally “Bulgarian.” During the Middle Ages, the Balkans (the peninsula where Bulgaria is located) were linked to heretical sects, such as a group known as the Bogomils, who were said to engage in deviant sexual practices.

We can see that the history of bugger has both historical layers of xenophobia and homophobia. Keep context in mind when using this word or else someone might tell you to bugger off.

If knowing the history of bugger has got you reflecting on your word choices, this slideshow, “These Common Words Have Offensive Histories,” discusses many other words whose place in your vocab you may want to reconsider. 

Keep in mind …

Bugger is still sometimes used in vulgar ways today, so let’s equip you with some alternatives just in case.

If you need another word for a “young fellow,” as in a cute little bugger, try youngster, rascal, scamp, or runt.

If you want to be a little meaner—er, more forceful, shall we say—about it, consider pest, nuisance, headache, or pain in the neck. Still curious about some other insults (oh, we know it’s just pure curiosity), English has a plethora of them. Here are a few of the gentler varieties: jerk, idiot, fool, oaf, nincompoop, or buffoon.

And if you need a different term for “a random item,” the junk drawer of English has the assortment you need: doodad, gizmo, gadget, and widget, to name a few.

Need even more substitutes for bugger? Check out our synonyms for kid, annoyance, and thing on Thesaurus.com.

British Dictionary definitions for bugger

/ (ˈbʌɡə) /

slang an exclamation of annoyance or disappointment

Word Origin for bugger

C16: from Old French bougre, from Medieval Latin Bulgarus Bulgarian; from the condemnation of the dualist heresy rife in Bulgaria from the tenth century to the fifteenth
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