Definition of bugbear in English:



  • 1A cause of obsessive fear, anxiety, or irritation.

    ‘the biggest villain is that adman's bugbear, saturated fat’
    • ‘A police spokesman said: ‘We are hoping we can make some inroads because the damage these kids are causing is one of the major bugbears in the town.’’
    • ‘Not a big bugbear, just a minor irritation with no consequences.’
    • ‘In fact, loading times are a real bugbear in Total Club Manager but this is a problem for the PlayStation 2, not the game itself.’
    • ‘Marie-Antoinette was a Habsburg, and thus from the moment of her arrival in France in 1770 the bugbear of the Richelieu-d'Aiguillon faction, which hated the Austrian alliance.’
    • ‘The trouble is that, unless he can get his squad in place early in the summer, Allardyce fears he could encounter the cold start problems that have been a major bugbear of the past two seasons.’
    • ‘Now making phone calls has become one of my bugbears.’
    • ‘Youth nuisance is the main bugbear in this town and we are working hard to stamp it out.’
    • ‘Cooke insists the device will speed up the pace of play, one of the biggest bugbears in the increasingly popular sport.’
    • ‘The major bugbear for anyone involved with Hearts is the continuing problems with Tynecastle Stadium.’
    • ‘GPs who refuse to treat patients with drug problems or refuse to put them on methadone are one of McCartney's biggest bugbears.’
    • ‘The lack of accountability in this area has been one of my bugbears for a few years, so while welcome, it's very, very late in the day and seems to have been prompted by an IMC report.’
    • ‘Point to this program, and a bevy of bugbears, from disaffected employees to muckraking journalists, will disappear.’
    • ‘But I shall leave those bugbears for another day.’
    • ‘The M8's four lanes are regarded by hundreds of thousands of Scots as one of the biggest bugbears of their working lives.’
    • ‘As well as litter, the major bugbears identified by council tenants include vandalism and graffiti, which take second and third place in the council's league of perceived problems.’
    • ‘It's the same thing with phones - one of my personal bugbears.’
    • ‘Difficulties concerning preemption have proven to be the biggest bugbear for Lewis's theory.’
    • ‘In some ways life is a battle against these bugbears.’
    • ‘Directors said rising costs, new regulations and the difficulty of raising capital are the new bugbears.’
    • ‘Braintree councillors are concerned the town is becoming choked with traffic since the new A120 opened and fear the problem is proving a major bugbear for local residents.’
    pet hate, hate, bane, irritant, irritation, dislike, anathema, aversion, vexation, thorn in one's flesh, thorn in one's side, bane of one's life
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  • 2archaic An imaginary being invoked to frighten children, typically a sort of hobgoblin supposed to devour them.

    • ‘Mormo was a female spectre, with which the Greeks used to frighten little children. Mormo was one of the same class of bugbears as Empusa and Lamia.’
    • ‘Some frighten their children with beggars, bugbears or hobgoblins if they cry, or be otherwise unruly’
    • ‘Mermaids are supposed to abound in the ponds and ditches in this neighbourhood. Careful mothers use them as bugbears to prevent little children from going too near the water.’
    • ‘One of these, Francis Moore, wrote: ‘A dreadful bugbear to the women is called Mumbo Jumbo, which keeps the women in awe.’’


Late 16th century: probably from obsolete bug ‘bogey’ (of unknown origin) + bear.