Word Origin & History
O.E. beran "to bear, bring; bring forth, produce; to endure, sustain; to wear" (class IV strong verb; past tense bær, pp. boren), from P.Gmc. *beranan (cf. O.H.G. beran, Ger. gebären, O.N. bera, Goth. bairan "to carry, bear, give birth to"), from PIE root *bher- (1) meaning both "give birth"
(though only English and German strongly retain this sense, and Russian has beremennaya "pregnant") and "carry a burden, bring" (see infer
). Ball bearings "bear" the friction. Many senses are from notion of "move onward by pressure." O.E. past tense bær became M.E. bare; 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 1775. To bear (something) in mind is from 1530s.
O.E. bera "bear," from P.Gmc. *beron "the brown one" (cf. O.N. björn, Ger. Bär), from PIE *bher- (3) "bright, brown" (see brown
). Greek arktos and Latin ursus retain the PIE root word for "bear" (*rtko), but it is believed to have been ritually replaced in the northern
branches because of hunters' taboo on names of wild animals (cf. the Ir. equivalent "the good calf," Welsh "honey-pig," Lith. "the licker," Rus. 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." Symbolic of Russia since 1794. Used of uncouth persons since 1570s. Meaning "speculator for a fall" is 1709 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.