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Commonly Confused Words: Bear vs. Bare


What does each word mean?

The word bear has two meanings.

As a noun, the word describes a type of furry, four-legged animal. In stock market jargon, the word is also used metaphorically to describe someone who sells shares with the intention of later buying them back for a cheaper price.

Here is the noun bear used in some example sentences:

  • Winnie the Pooh is a bear who loves honey.
  • A young bear is called a cub.

As a verb, the word describes the act of carrying something. This thing can be a literal object, but it can also be a name or a feeling. The past tense for bear is bore

Here is the verb bear used in some example sentences:

  • He could hardly bear the pain.
  • She bore seven children.
  • I can’t bear the taste of bananas.

You can read the full Spellzone dictionary definition of both the noun and verb versions of bear here, and you can find the Spellzone word lists which include the word bear here.

The word bare describes something that is exposed, or something that is as basic as it can be. The word is also used as a verb to describe the act of unclothing, exposing or uncovering something.

Here is bare used in some example sentences:

  • She liked to walk with bare feet when the pavement had been warmed by the sun.
  • The room had bare floorboards.
  • She bared her arm so that the Doctor could give her an injection.

You can read the full Spellzone dictionary definition of bare here, and you can find the Spellzone word lists which include the word bare here.

Where does each word come from?

  • Bear, to describe the animal, comes from the Old English ‘bera’. ‘Bera’ in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic ‘beron’, which translates to ‘the brown one’.
  • Bear, as a verb, comes from the Old English ‘beran’ which means ‘to bear, bring, bring forth, produce; to endure, sustain; to wear’.
  • Bare comes from the Old English ‘bær’ which means ‘naked, uncovered, unclothed’, and which in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic ‘bazaz’.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between these words?

  • To remember that the word to describe the type of animal is bear, try imagining a bear chewing off someone’s ear. If that proves too gruesome for you, perhaps think of how a terrifying bear might fill someone with fear (note that the last three letters of each word are the same).
  • To remember that the verb bear is spelt with an ‘ear’ at the end, why not think of a sentence with both bear and ear in it? What about: ‘My ears bear the weight of my spectacles’?
  • Remember: you need a bar of soap to wash your bare skin.

To see a full list of our Commonly Confused Words posts, click here. Have a good week!

NB: The etymologies in the article are from the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Avani Shah


14 Apr 2014
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