Forbear vs. forebear

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To forbear is to refrain, to hold back, or to tolerate in the face of provocation. The word only works as a verb. Its past tense is forbore, and its past participle is forborne. It’s usually pronounced for-BEARForebear, meanwhile, is a noun referring to a person from whom one is descended—i.e., an ancestor. It’s usually pronounced FOR-bear.

For obvious reasons, the two words are often confused. They are easy to keep separate, though, if you remember that a forebear is one who comes before. And forbear is perhaps easy to remember if you keep in mind that its corresponding noun is forbearance. Forebearance, with the in the first syllable, is not a dictionary-recognized word, so it doesn’t pass spell check.



Last October, NMT defaulted on a $4 million loan from Silicon Valley Bank, which agreed to forbear from calling in its note. [Mass Device]

In short, perpetrators must forbear from protestations of innocence while their victims forbear from revenge. [Forgiveness and Reconciliation]

The agency promised to forbear on all but six of the four dozen rules that apply to phone services. [Washington Post]


He is seen as a forebear to Bolivia’s contemporary indigenous movement. [The Progressive]

Thousands upon thousands of Jews were being expelled from the land of theirforebears and the forebears of their forebears. [Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone, Eduardo Galleano]

It is thought that the forebear of the cougar migrated from Asia into North America over the Bering land bridge approximately 8 million years ago. []

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