General English

  • noun trouble or worry
  • verb to make someone feel slightly angry, especially by disturbing them
  • verb to feel worried, or make someone feel worried


  • noun trouble, violence, aggression. A typical example of menacing understatement as it occurs in London working-class speech (spanking, seeing-to and ‘have a word with (someone)’ are other examples). The use of bother by police officers and thugs as a euphemism for violence reached public notice in the late 1960s when it became a skinhead rallying cry, usually rendered as bovver.

Origin & History of “bother”

when the word bother first turns up in English in the first half of the 18th century, it is largely in the writings of Irishmen, such as Thomas Sheridan and Jonathan swift. this has naturally led to speculation that the word may be of Irish origin, but no thoroughly convincing candidate has been found. The superficially similar Irish Gaelic bodhar ‘deaf, afflicted’ is more alike in spelling than pronunciation. Another suggestion is that it may represent an Irish way of saying pother (16th c.), an archaic word for ‘commotion’ which is itself of unknown origin.