Origin of forebearfrom fore + be + -er
An example of a forebear is a person's great great great grandfather.
Origin of forebearLate Middle English (Scottish) forbear Middle English fore- fore- beer one who is ( from ben to be ; see be . ) ( -er -er ; see -er 1. )
Usage Note: Etymologically, a forebear is a “a fore-be-er,” a person who has existed in earlier times. But because the -bear part of this word is pronounced to rhyme with the verb bear, people apparently conceive of the word's meaning as “a person who has given birth in earlier times,” or “a person who has borne burdens in earlier times,” as if it was a compound of the prefix fore- and the verb bear. The existence of the verb forbear has probably reinforced this notion, even though that verb means “to restrain oneself from doing something” and has lost its original meaning of “to endure.” At any rate, the noun forebearer is sometimes found in place of forebear even in edited prose in sentences like His forebearers had crossed the Appalachians shortly after the American Revolution. The Usage Panel rejects this usage strongly but not overwhelmingly. In fact, 36 percent accepted this sentence in our 2008 survey, suggesting that forebearer may soon be a word whose time has come.
- An ancestor.
- Not to be confused with: forbear verb.
(third-person singular simple present forebears, present participle forebearing, simple past forebore, past participle foreborne)
- Obsolete spelling of forbear.
- Conon de Bethune, the crusader and poet, was an early forebear.