Each week, “It’s not GREek!” will discuss a new word likely to appear on the GRE. We aim not only to give you a new word to memorize, but also to provide you with some background and etymological history to help you remember it. At the end of the post, we will also give you a sentence with a few other new words to add to your flash cards. By following this weekly series, you should be more prepared than ever to tackle the sentence completion, sentence equivalencies, and reading comprehension questions on test day.
This Week’s Word: Bugaboo
Are you afraid of the dark? Think you hear things go bump in the night? Well, you can add bugaboos to your list of nighttime fears. This word aptly describes an imaginary object of fear, or something that causes fear or distress disproportionate to its importance.
Other new names for the boogeyman? How about bete noir, black beast, bogey or hobgoblin?
Bugaboo’s origins are unkown (likely from the same dark creepy crevices of your bedroom they like to inhabit) but it is suspected to come from bugbear or Bugibu, a demon from the old French poem “Aliscans.” Others believe bugaboo has Celtic origins, from the Cornish “buccaboo” which means the devil. Still others trace the word’s origins back to Scotland, where “bogill” meant “goblin or bugbear.”
A bugaboo can also be a recurring problem that never goes away, like having to file taxes annually. People living in L.A. or other cities plagued by notoriously bad traffic might call their daily commute a real bugaboo.