Etymology
Advertisement
bear (v.)
Origin and meaning of bear

Old English beran "to carry, bring; bring forth, give birth to, produce; to endure without resistance; to support, hold up, sustain; to wear" (class IV strong verb; past tense bær, past participle boren), from Proto-Germanic *beranan (source also of Old Saxon beran, Old Frisian bera "bear, give birth," Middle Dutch beren "carry a child," Old High German beran, German gebären, Old Norse bera "carry, bring, bear, endure; give birth," Gothic bairan "to carry, bear, give birth to"), from PIE root *bher- (1) "carry a burden, bring," also "give birth" (though only English and German strongly retain this sense, and Russian has beremennaya "pregnant").

The Old English past tense bær became Middle English bare; the alternative bore began to appear c. 1400, but bare remained the literary form till after 1600. Past-participle distinction of borne for "carried" and born for "given birth" is from late 18c.

Many senses are from the notion of "move onward by pressure." To bear down "proceed forcefully toward" (especially in nautical use) is from 1716.  The verb is attested from c. 1300 as "possess as an attribute or characteristic." The meaning "sustain without sinking" is from 1520s; to bear (something) in mind is from 1530s; the meaning "tend, be directed" (in a certain way) is from c. 1600. To bear up is from 1650s as "be firm, have fortitude."

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
bear (n.)
Origin and meaning of bear

"large carnivorous or omnivorous mammal of the family Ursidae," Old English bera "a bear," from Proto-Germanic *bero, literally "the brown (one)" (source also of Old Norse björn, Middle Dutch bere, Dutch beer, Old High German bero, German Bär), usually said to be from PIE root *bher- (2) "bright; brown." There was perhaps a PIE *bheros "dark animal" (compare beaver (n.1) and Greek phrynos "toad," literally "the brown animal").

Greek arktos and Latin ursus retain the PIE root word for "bear" (*rtko; see arctic), but it is believed to have been ritually replaced in the northern branches because of hunters' taboo on names of wild animals (compare the Irish equivalent "the good calf," Welsh "honey-pig," Lithuanian "the licker," Russian medved "honey-eater"). Others connect the Germanic word with Latin ferus "wild," as if it meant "the wild animal (par excellence) of the northern woods."

Used of rude, gruff, uncouth men since 1570s. Symbolic of Russia since 1794.  The stock market meaning "speculator for a fall" is by 1709, a shortening of bearskin jobber (from the proverb sell the bearskin before one has caught the bear); i.e. "one who sells stock for future delivery, expecting that meanwhile prices will fall." Paired with bull from c. 1720. Bear claw as a type of large pastry is from 1942, originally chiefly western U.S. Bear-garden (1590s) was a place where bears were kept for the amusement of spectators.

Related entries & more 
bear-hug (n.)

also bearhug, "rough, tight embrace," 1876, from bear (n.) + hug (n.).

Related entries & more 
teddy bear (n.)

1906, named for U.S. president Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt (1858-1919), a noted big-game hunter, whose conservationist fervor inspired a comic illustrated poem in the New York Times of Jan. 7, 1906, about two bears named Teddy, whose names were transferred to two bears presented to the Bronx Zoo that year. The name was picked up by toy dealers in 1907 for a line of "Roosevelt bears" imported from Germany. Meaning "big, lovable person" first attested 1957, from the song popularized by Elvis Presley.

Related entries & more 
Smokey Bear (n.)

"state policeman," 1974, from truckers' slang, in reference to the wide-brim style of hat worn by state troopers (the hats so called by 1969). Ultimately the reference is to a popular illustrated character of that name, dressed in forest ranger gear (including a hat like those later worn by state troopers). He was introduced in 1944 by the U.S. Forest Service and the Wartime Advertising Council in a campaign to lower the number of forest fires in the West.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
bear-baiting (n.)

"sport of setting dogs (usually mastiffs) to fight with captive bears," late 15c., from bear (n.) + baiting. It was prohibited in Great Britain in 1835.

Related entries & more 
cave-bear (n.)

Ice Age vegetarian bear of Europe and western Asia (extinct from c. 10,000 years ago), known from fossil remains found in caves, 1826; see cave (n.) + bear (n.).

Related entries & more 
bearskin (n.)

also bear-skin, "the skin of a bear," Old English berascin; see bear (n.) + skin (n.).

Related entries & more 
ursine (adj.)

"pertaining to a bear," 1550s, from Latin ursinus "of or resembling a bear," from ursus "a bear," cognate with Greek arktos, from PIE *rtko- (see arctic).

Related entries & more 
Bruin (n.)

proper name for a bear, late 15c., from Middle Dutch Bruin, name of the bear in "Reynard the Fox" fables; literally "brown;" cognate with English brown, German Braun (from PIE root *bher- (2) "bright; brown;" and compare bear (n.)).

Related entries & more