Bare in mind or bear in mind?

Introduction

When you’re talking to someone, it’s impossible to know how words are supposed to be spelt. Therefore writing words which you’ve only heard can be the perfect opportunity for spelling mistakes.

When you get told something important, you might have been told to “Bear it in mind”. When writing, it might be tempting to write “bare in mind”. However, the correct version is “Bear in mind”.

Today, I want to talk about why you should use this “bear” and why we have two different spellings of the word in the first place.

What I’m about to tell you might not be essential, but you should still bear it in mind.

What does it mean

What does it even mean to bear something in mind?

All it means is that you should remember it because you never know when it might come in handy in the future.

It’s often used in the context of health and safety. You might need to bear in mind the floor will be wet in the morning as it’s just been cleaned.

It can also help you if you need to pass a test. You may have to bear in mind the historical context of a story if you wish to write an essay about it.

Bear

“Bear” is a verb meaning to carry, usually in circumstances where carrying it is going to cause pain or discomfort, but you aren’t allowed to moan or complain.

When Jesus was crucified, he had to “bear the cross”. If you make a mistake, you have to bear the consequences.

There is another type of bear, the big (usually) brown, black, or white animal. This type of “bear” is spelt in the same way that it would be in “bear in mind”. However, they have different etymologies, which we’ll talk about later in the article.

Bare

The other type- “bare” can either be a verb or an adjective, but the two words are somewhat related.

If being used as a verb, it can mean to uncover, usually in a sexual context. “She had to bare her chest for the camera”.

It can also mean naked, “His bare body provided the perfect object to paint”.

So if you were to say “bare in mind”, you would be telling someone to imagine someone else taking their clothes off, or think about them already being naked.

Most of the time, this is not what we mean when we say “bear in mind”.

Homophones

“Bear” and “Bear” are a perfect example of homophones. Not only do these two words sound the same but mean different things, but “bear” and “bear” are both homophones unto themselves.

This is a 4-way homophone we’re talking about”!

In case you’re not aware, a homophone is when two words sound the same but have different meanings. The spelling of the words is of no relevance here.

Other examples of homophones include

“I read a book. My favourite colour is red”.

“Lie down. That’s a lie”.

“They rose up. Rose petal”

Homophones can be very confusing for people who are new to English- or any language for that matter.

Bear etymology

Where do we get the verb “bear” from?

It originates from the Proto-Indo-European “Bher”, which means to carry without resistance; precisely what Christ had to do with the cross.

In Proto-Germanic, this became “Beranan”, and in Old English, it became “Beran” before finally becoming “bear” which we still use today.

Who knows, perhaps one day in the future, this word is going to change yet again.

The animal bear comes from the Proto-Indo-European “bheros” which means dark animal- the same origin as the beaver.

Bear left

“One day, there were two trophy hunters who went to visit Alaska because they wanted to catch a beautiful brown bear that they could bring home, and put in their living room.

As they’re driving along the Alaskan highway, they see a sign that says “Bear left”.

After reading this sign, the two of them sighed before leaving Alaska and going home.”

That isn’t a true story, it’s a joke I was told by a friend of mine once. Within this joke, the two hunters got the two definitions of “Bear” mixed up.

The sign was saying they needed to keep on the left of the road, but they thought the brown bear had left Alaska.

Bare etymology

We’ve looked at the etymology of “Bear”. But I think we should also look at the etymology of “bare”. Understanding that these words come from different roots can help us to be aware of which one we should be using in the future.

In Proto-Indo-European, “bhoso” meant naked. In Proto-Germanic, it became bazaz.

When Old English came about, it was turned into “baer” before becoming “bare”.

Essentially what we’ve done here is taken the old English word and swapped the “A” and “E” around.

Alternatives

There is always going to be more than one way to say your point in the English language.

Instead of “bear in mind”, you could tell someone to “keep in mind”. This might be more appropriate when the information is useful but not unpleasant.

“Word of warning” uses alliteration to make it stick in your mind better. You’re also giving your listener more of a choice as to whether or not to remember what you have just told them.

If you’re short on time, “Remember” can provide the same purpose as “bear in mind” but with fewer words.

Conclusion

Although it’s sometimes spelt “bare in mind”, it’s actually “bear in mind”. To bear means to carry (even when you hate doing so) without complaint. To bare means to show (usually a part of your body).

Bear and bare are the perfect example of homophones as both spellings of the word have two different definitions each.

Despite them sounding the same, “bear” comes from the Proto-Indo-European Bher, whereas “bare” comes from the same language but from their word for naked “bhoso”.

Although most of the time, it won’t matter as “bear in mind” is spoken more often than it’s written. However, with social media becoming more common, knowing how to spell words correctly is starting to become more prevalent.