‘Bear’ vs. ‘Bare’: What’s the Difference?

By Kelsey Weeks, updated on August 9, 2023

What is the difference between ‘bear’ vs. ‘bare?’ In the popular song “‘Bare’ Necessities,” sung by a ‘bear,’ knowing the difference between the two comes into play. There are times when these words tend to intersect, so it is important to know the difference in meaning and spelling.

A brief introduction:

  • ‘Bear’ is more widely known for the animal, but that is not its only meaning.
  • ‘Bear’ and ‘bare’ can both be verbs.
  • ‘Bare’ is typically used as a form of not covered.

There are tips and tricks to help you learn the difference between the two words, from definition to usage. The rest of this article will elaborate and give examples to help you feel that you can ‘bear’ using the two words.

What is the Difference Between ‘Bear’ and ‘Bare?’

As with many other confusing words in English, ‘bear’ and ‘bare’ are homophones. This means that they sound the same but that they have different meanings.  There are over 6,000 homophones in the English language, so learning how to distinguish these will be helpful in expanding your vocabulary.

  • Since ‘bear’ has multiple meanings, it also has multiple roots for its etymology.
    • The noun version of ‘bear’ comes from the Middle English word ‘bere,’ meaning ‘bear,’ just spelled differently, referencing the many different types of animals we call bears.
    • Still, the verb version comes from Middle English ‘beren,’ which means to carry or bring forth. Understanding where the word comes from makes telling the difference between the two easier.
  • In contrast, ‘bare’ comes from Old English ‘baer,’ meaning naked or barefoot.

When looking at the meaning of these words, where the word comes from really answers the questions of how I would use these words when writing.

Definition of ‘Bear': What Does it Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘bear’ can be a noun or verb.

As a noun, it means:

  • Any family of large heavy mammals of America and Eurasia that have long shaggy hair, rudimentary tails, and plantigrade feet and feed largely on fruit, plant matter, insects, and the flesh.
    • For example, bear types.
  • A surly, uncouth, burly, or shambling person
  • One that sells securities or commodities in expectation of a price decline.
  • Something difficult to do or deal with

As a verb, it means:

  • To accept or allow oneself to be subject to, especially without giving way.
    • To call for as suitable or essential.
    • Assume or accept.
    • To support the weight of or sustain.
    • To hold above on top or aloft.
    • To admit or allow.
  • To move while holding up and supporting.
    • To have as a feature or characteristic.
    • Behave or conduct.
    • To hold in the mind or emotions.
    • To give testimony.
  • To give birth to.
    • To produce as yield.

Synonyms of ‘Bear’

  • Crab
  • Complainer
  • Have
  • Produce
  • Deliver
  • Stand
  • Endure
  • Handle
  • Take
  • Accept
  • Sustain
  • Relate
  • Pertain
  • Apply
  • Refer
  • Carry
  • Support
  • Hold
  • Assume
  • Shoulder
  • Lead
  • Need
  • Contain
  • Be
  • Yield

Antonyms of ‘Bear’

  • Lose
  • Abort
  • Refuse
  • Reject
  • Resist
  • Forget
  • Ignore
  • Drop
  • Disregard
  • Carry on
  • Withdraw
  • Optimist

Definition of ‘Bare': What Does it Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘bare’ is an adjective or verb.

As an adjective, it means:

  • Lacking a natural usual or appropriate covering.
    • Lacking clothing.
    • Lacking any tool or weapon.
  • Open to view or exposed.
  • Unfurnished or scantily supplied.
    • Destitute.
  • Having nothing left over or added.
    • To rise to majestic stature.

As a verb, it means:

  • To make or lay something bare or uncovered.

Synonyms of ‘Bare’

  • Simple
  • Plain
  • Naked
  • Unadorned
  • Stripped
  • Exposed
  • Uncovered
  • Open
  • Nude
  • Devoid
  • Empty
  • Barren
  • Reveal
  • Disclose
  • Discover
  • Expose
  • Tell

Antonyms of ‘Bare’

  • Hide
  • Conceal
  • Veil
  • Mask
  • Full
  • Filled
  • Complete
  • Clothed
  • Dressed
  • Fancy
  • Adorned
  • Decorated

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Bear’ and ‘Bare’

With ‘bear’ and ‘bare; being homophones, they sound the same even though they are spelled differently with different meanings. Ensuring that you say the word correctly helps you master both words at once so that you can add these words to your repertoire.

  • The phonetic spelling of 'bear’ and ‘bare’ is:


When to use ‘Bear’ vs. ‘Bare’

Let us look at some examples of when to use ‘bear’ versus using ‘bare.’

  • Use ‘bear’ when noticing the wildlife.

In this example, you could whisper to a friend:

We need to change our route. I see a ‘bear’ on the hillside up ahead.

  • Use ‘bear’ when speaking of testimonies.

For example, in a courtroom, one may hear:

I did ‘bear’ witness to the person at the restaurant at the same time as me on July 27th.

  • You can use ‘bare’ if someone is not clothed.

As an example, someone may tell their child:

Please do not go outside with bare feet because your feet may become injured. 

  • You can also use ‘bare’ when saying something is unfurnished.

You may tell someone:

My new office is ‘bare,’ but I am going to use the opportunity to make it feel and look how I would like.

Sample Sentences Using 'Bear'

Review these sample sentences to learn to use ‘bear,’ noting that it has a lot of different meanings for conversations.

  • People must prepare for ‘bears’ when camping because food close to the ground can draw them in.
  • Sometimes, people with political power are known for being a ‘bear’ of the stock market because they can get some insider information.
  • The trees I planted five years ago are ‘bearing’ fruit for the first time this year.
  • Robin can’t ‘bear’ holding a secret for longer than three days because she feels that she needs to share it with someone.
  • One must decide which burdens they will ‘bear’ in life and which ones they will let go of and heal from.
  • After Aleida broke her ankle, she had to wait a certain amount before that leg was allowed to ‘bearweight without assistance.
  • With this being his first presentation, he asked the audience to ‘bear’ with him as he figured out how to present the material in this format.

Sample Sentences Using 'Bare'

Review these sample sentences to learn how to use ‘bare.’

  • To train, she punched the wood with her ‘bare’ knuckles, so when she wore the hand wraps, she did not have any problems with pain.
  • The market wasbare’ after getting there so late in the afternoon. All the items that they wanted must have sold out in the morning.
  • The workers never do only the ‘bare’ minimum because they value their pay and jobs, realizing that a lot of other people in the area and not fairly paid as they are.
  • The lion felt threatened, so she ‘bared’ her teeth so that the person observing in the zoo knew that they should give space to the lion family.

Closing Words on ‘Bear’ vs. ‘Bare’

A summary of ‘bear’ vs. ‘bare’:

  • ‘Bear’ has many meanings, but it is the only one of the two that can be a noun.
  • ‘Bare’ typically relates to being without something.

Homophones can be tricky, but that does not mean they are impossible. Remember that ' bear ' has many meanings when trying to figure out which one to use, so you may want to lean towards using that spelling with ‘bare’ having a more specific meaning. You don’t have to grin and ‘bear’ it. Just use the tools given to you in this article.

All posts on our website explain how to use tricky words correctly. Check back frequently to reduce the errors in your writing. You can find additional resources on English words in the confusing words section.

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Written By:
Kelsey Weeks
Kelsey Weeks is currently a school counselor at a high school and a previous English teacher. She loves helping others with literacy, learning more, and exploring nature. She has an undergrad in English with an emphasis on secondary education and an M.A. in Applied Psychology from NYU.

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