Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bear n.

1. senses based on the bear’s appearance or perceived characteristics.

(a) a gruff, irritable person; amplified in phr. a bear with a sore head.

[UK]R. Brathwait Barnabees Journal II L2: There the Beares were come to Town-a; / Two rude Hunks, ’tis troth I tell ye.
[UK] ‘A New Dialogue’ in Ebsworth Bagford Ballads (1878) I 70: Go, go, you are a silly Bear.
[UK] in D’Urfey Pills to Purge Melancholy II 104: In Youth a nauseous flashy Fop, in elder years a Bear.
[UK]J. Townley High Life Below Stairs I iii: Ye drunken Bears, why don’t one of you go to the Door.
[UK]Foote Mayor of Garrat in Works (1799) I 182: Fye, Mr. Bruin, how can you be such a bear: is that a manner of treating your wife?
[UK]G. Colman Yngr John Bull III ii: You Irish bear.
[UK]Egan Anecdotes of the Turf, the Chase etc. 130: Master Broughton, then you are a bear to-day.
[UK]Marryat Peter Simple (1911) 10: You’re like a young bear, all your sorrows to come.
[UK]Thackeray Barry Lyndon (1905) 217: I always thought their great chief a great bear [...] misbehaving himself most grossly.
[US](con. 1843) Melville White-Jacket (1990) 338: ‘You are an old bear, gunner’s mate,’ said Jack Chase.
[Ire]Tralee Chron. (Co. Kerry) 8 July 2/6: Need I tell you that it is the Kerry Evening Post (groans)? Twas always said that the ‘Calf’ was in bad humour. He is not a calf this morning, but like a bear with a sore head (cheers and laughter).
[UK]R.S. Surtees Facey Romford’s Hounds 178: There was a great desire to see Mr Romford in a room. Some said he was a bear, others that he was a beau.
[UK]S. London Chron. 12 May 6/1: I have made it up with poor old Joe. All last week he was as savage asa bear with a sore head.
[UK]Royal Cornwall Gaz. 22 Mar. 6/2: Even then he was not contented, but roared out on me more like a bear with a sore head.
[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 48: I’ll get the laudanum for you [...] You shan’t ask that bear for it.
[Ind]‘Aliph Cheem’ Lays of Ind (1905) 53: How he'd not permit her dancing / [...] / (‘Gussy, isn’t he a bear?’) .
[UK]Sheffield Eve. Teleg. 17 Oct. 4/3: At last he got out, as naked as Adam [...] and as savage as a bear with a sore head.
[UK]Punch 25 Apr. 201: The ‘Cony’ is feeble, the Bear’s a rough bore.
[UK]Hartlepool Mail 4 Apr. 1/4: That young Irishman would talk a bear with a sore head into an amiable humour.
[US]Omaha Dly Bee (NE) 9 Aug. 25/3: One man walks over another who is sleeping and wakes him up, as cross as a bear with a sore head.
[US]S.F. Call 29 Oct. 5/2: Dr Herrick is as cross as a bear with a sore head.
[US]R.W. Brown ‘Word-List From Western Indiana’ in DN III:viii 547: cross as a bear with a sore head, adj. phr. Very cross or angry.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 10 Dec. 47/1: It is a shame she spoiled her life / With such a perfect bear. / And yet she seems quite satisfied / With this peculiar man; / And says, with rather foolish pride, / He is Bohemian.
[UK]W. Holtby Anderby Wold (1981) 39: ’E’s been like a bear wi’ a sore head ever since his missus hasn’t been well like.
[US]‘Boxcar Bertha’ Sister of the Road (1975) 82: Do you mean to say you didn’t swipe anything from that old bear.
[UK]A. Christie Sad Cypress (1954) 143: Made her father wild, that did. He was like a bear with a sore head about it.
[UK]C. Harris Death of a Barrow Boy 187: Oh, ’e’s laid up, duck. No, just one of ’is turns. Ooh, like a bear with a sore ’ead.
Picture Post (advert for Horlicks) 26 Mar. 26: Darling, you’re becoming a regular old bear! [...] It’s this tiredness of yours.
[NZ]N. Hilliard Maori Girl 178: You get around like a bear with a sore head, growl at everything, nothing’s right.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS 77: Bear A strong, often offensive male.

(b) (US) someone who overworks their employees or students, a hard taskmaster/mistress; see also bear for, a

[US]R. Bolwell ‘College Sl. Words And Phrases’ in DN IV:iii 231: bear, n. [...] A professor who ‘overworks’ his students.
[US]Dundes & Schonhorn ‘Kansas University Sl.: A New Generation’ in AS XXXVIII:3 167: A bear at Western Reserve is a professor who overworks his students.
[US](con. 1920s) S. James in Calt I’d Rather Be the Devil (1994) 64: We had three bossmen. [...] Tate Lorraine was a bear: he’d kill a man in a minute .

(c) (US black) a particularly ugly person, man or woman.

[US]M.H. Boulware Jive and Sl. n.p.: Boggie Bear ... Ugly man, or woman.
[US]Times (Munster, IN) 19 Jan. 56/1: Slang keeps changing to keep up [...] ‘Bear’ — Ugly girl.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]H.E. Roberts Third Ear n.p.: bear n. an ugly female.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 229: bear [...] 1. Especially unattractive female. 2. Especially unkempt female. 3. General reference to any female the speaker finds especially undesirable.

(d) (US) an African-American.

G. Tobe Why They Called Colored Folks Bears in Levet Talkin That Talk (2010) 59/2: Why did they call colored folks bears? Because his flesh wasn’t colored as yours he call you a bear, say ‘Here come a goddam bear, let’s get him’ .

(e) a grasping person, a miser.

[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 55: Rudy was a bear when it got down to money.

2. a Russian; also as the Bear, Russia [the Russian ‘national animal’].

[UK] in D’Urfey Pills to Purge Melancholy II 274: The Czar is maul’d, / His Foxes hol’d, / In Shoals the Bears do fly.
[UK] ‘Russian Bear’ in Holloway & Black (1979) II 198: And with his hunting friend Murat / He went to hunt the Bear.
[UK]Satirist (London) 31 July 136/1: The Poles were a suffering race—the Russians were un-bear-able and a set of thieves.
[US]R. Carlton New Purchase II 239: Their blood so much excels that of the Russian Bear, or John Bull.
[UK] ‘Lovely Albert’ in W. Henderson Victorian Street Ballads (1937) 150: Chain up the Bear and make him stare, / And so help my Davy.
[UK] ‘’Arry to the Front!’ in Punch 9 Mar. 100/2: Old Beakey’s a brick, and means pepper, — there’s hopes it’ll end in a fight. / That Bear is in want of a basting.
[UK]Punch CI 31 Oct. 210: The Bear, although polite, is as pertinacious, quite, / As the tactless Teuton pig.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 15 July 1/8: Should Austria with the Bear make pact, / Should both then tackle Bull.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 21 Feb. 4/5: The necessity to Australia for the Bear to biff the Dragon into helplessness becomes more apparent every day.
[UK]Sporting Times 4 Feb. 1/1: The Russian turning movement has finished by being a returning movement. The Bear finds the Japs to be what the Johnny finds the ladies—a costly lot to get round.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]J.L. Gwaltney Drylongso 20: Everybody is bugging the Bear to let these Jews leave [...] I saw this senator telling everybody that if the Russians don’t let the Jews leave Russia, then we should stop selling things to them.
[UK]S. Berkoff Decadence in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 36: The cost of war is going up / the bear is on the move again.
[US]R. Atkinson Long Gray Line (1990) 198: A hundred and fifty Bears at twenty thousand feet [...] That was World War II stuff.
[UK]J. Meades Empty Wigs (t/s) 398: Bear baiting it got to be known as. Winding up eastern bloc embassies all over the world. Pissing off chumski Ivan.

3. the pupil of a private tutor, who is ‘led’ by his master (like a keeper with a tame bear).

Legends of London II 247: When I was the youthful bear – as the disciple of a private tutor is called at Oxford [F&H].

4. senses based on the bear’s strength and power.

(a) (US prison) illicitly distilled liquor.

[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 25 Sept. 11/4: An enterprising convict [...] engaged in the manufacture of liquor [...] ‘Bear’ as it is called, is made to this day from bread crusts.

(b) an attractive (young) woman; usu. in phr. She’s a bear.

[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 4 Dec. 7/3: He calls the manager ‘the old man,’ the actors ‘hams’ [...] the actresses ‘bears’.
[US]T.A. Dorgan Silk Hat Harry’s Divorce Suit 24 Aug. [synd. strip cartoon] Dear Little Edith, I saw your mush in the paper today and on the square I think you’re a bear.
[US]B.T. Harvey ‘Word-List From The Northwest’ in DN IV:i 26: bear, n. A general term of approval or approbation. [...] ‘She’s a bear, – she’s ‘classy,’ or a good ‘ragger’.’.
[US]R. Lardner ‘My Roomy’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 335: ‘Good-looker?’ I ast. ‘No,’ he says; ‘she ain’t no bear for looks.’.
[US]Wood & Goddard Dict. Amer. Sl. 5: bear, she’s a. She’s a wow, a wonder.
[US]W.R. Burnett Iron Man 129: She’s a bear for looks [...] I wish I had a wife like that.

(c) an expert, an adept; an excellent, admirable person; see also bear for, a

[US]F. Hutchison Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 85: ‘Say, she’s entitled to the blue ribbon as the champion Human Bumblebee o' the world [...] She must be a bear wit’ that stingin' spiel!’ .
[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 17: Bonehead Barry, The Bush League Bear.
[US]T.A. Dorgan ‘Daffydills’ in El Paso Herald (TX) 8 Sept. 8: I gottas job at last and its a bear. All I do is to beat a drum all day.
J. London ‘The Little Man’ in Complete Stories I (1993) 2118: ‘Carson,’ he breathed up to him, ‘you’re some bear, some bear.’.
[US]Van Loan ‘A Rain Check’ in Ten-Thousand-Dollar Arm 305: He’s a bear [...] Did you see the way he murdered that drop ball of mine?
[US]J. Lait ‘If a Party Meet a Party’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 98: ‘You’re a bear,’ she said with feeling.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 140: He was a Bear on the whole Line of Tea-Gurgle.
[US]F. Walter Pollock ‘Current Expansion of Sl.’ in AS II:3 145: Some time ago, we were wont to indicate our approval of somebody or something with ‘She’s a bear’.
Eddie Costa-Vinnie Burke Trio [liner notes] My man, Eddie Costa — he’s a bear!

(d) of inanimate objects or circumstances, an exciting or otherwise exceptional example.

[US]B. Fisher Mutt & Jeff 12 Dec. [synd. strip] I’ll write one [i.e. a proposal of marriage] out for you — a bear.
[US]R. Lardner ‘Horseshoes’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 250: It [i.e. the World Series] went the full seven games and every game was a bear.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 118: [They] told him his Road House was a Bear.
[US]Jerry on the Job [comic strip] If a Chinaman is going to have his nut cut off he can hire a substitute. – Oboy – that’s a bear.
[US]C. McKay Home to Harlem 14: Lenox Avenue, you’re a bear, I know it.
[US](con. 1910s) J.T. Farrell Young Lonigan in Studs Lonigan (1936) 68: It had been a bear of a fight.

(e) (US campus) a well-dressed man.

[US]Baker et al. CUSS.

(f) (US gay) sex as a compulsion.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 31: sex as a compelling habit [...] the bear.

5. fig. uses derived from the animal’s negative characteristics.

(a) sunstroke; thus bear-caught adj., suffering from sunstroke.

[US]Z.N. Hurston Sweat (1995) 960: We’se all sufferin’ wid de heat. De bear’s done got me!
[US]D. Pearce Cool Hand Luke (1967) 80: And way out there [...] many a man has been bear-caught, which is to be stricken with heat exhaustion and sunstroke.

(b) (US black) a misfortune, an unfortunate situation, a feeling of depression.

[US]Lil Johnson ‘That Bonus Done Gone Through’ 🎵 Now look here, folks, she’s out the bear once more! [...] I got a good veteran who has cured my blues.
[US]P. Benchley Lush 45: ‘First one’s always a bear,’ Hector said. ‘Give it two or three, then it’ll grip you good.’.
[US]D. Simon Homicide (1993) 140: ‘Oh, Gene,’ said the nurse, ‘life’s a bear.’.
[US]C. Hiaasen Nature Girl 82: Logistically it would be [...] a bear. [...] I don’t do break-ins.

(c) (US black) constr. with the, poverty, misery.

[US]Z.N. Hurston ‘Story in Harlem Sl.’ in Novels and Stories (1995) 1010: The bear: confession of poverty.
[US]R.S. Gold ‘Vernacular of the Jazz World’ in AS XXXII:4 279: the bear. A confession of poverty.
[US]Current Sl. I:3 1/1: The Bear, n. Misfortune; an unfortunate event.

(d) (US prison) solitary confinement.

[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 73: I had thirty-two days wrestling with the bear so I worked on myself to keep from getting even crazier.

(e) (US campus) any difficult course or circumstance relating to college work.

[US]Dundes & Schonhorn ‘Kansas University Sl.: A New Generation’ in AS XXXVIII:3 167: A difficult college course: bear.
[US]G. Underwood ‘Razorback Sl.’ in AS L:1/2 53: bear ‘difficult course’.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Nov. 1: bear – situation that is difficult or requires a great deal of effort. ‘This week’s gonna be a bear. I have three mid-terms and a paper due.’.

(f) (US black) an unpleasant lifestyle.

[US]D. Claerbut Black Jargon in White America.

6. senses based on the bear’s furriness.

(a) (US black) an overcoat.

[US]Hughes & Bontemps Book of Negro Folklore 477: Overcoat – Benny or Bear.

(b) (US) the vulva.

[US](con. early 1950s) J. Peacock Valhalla 178: I woke up with my nose down there one night and woulda sworn to God I was staring that old grinnin’ bear right in the face.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 226: Cock [i.e. the vagina] is a crickly creature, / all covered with wool. / It look like a monkey and smell like a bear, / but I wish my peter was there.

(c) (US) a hairy, beefy homosexual male; thus bearish adj; also attrib.

[US]Advocate 26 July n.p.: Bears are usually hunky, chunky types reminiscent of railroad engineers and former football greats. They have larger chests and bellies than average, and notably muscular legs.
[US]Alt. Eng. Dict. 🌐 bear (count noun) a hairy beefy gay male ‘Both Mary and John like bears.’.
[US]Blackboiz for Other Boiz 🌐 19 Sept. Not attracted to feminine or fat men (solid bear types are definitely cool).
[US]E. White My Lives 255: A red-haired bear in Mobile whom I once met at a reading in Atlanta. [Ibid.] 299: He liked hairy chests – not a generalized bearish fuzziness or blond or down or elderly.
[US] 20 Nov. 🌐 Big-screen, high-definition televisions displayed [...] bareback bear porn on four walls.
[UK]Independent 24 Jan. 36/1: The book’s 18 essays cover many aspects of the gay world (fag hags, liposuction, ‘bears’).

7. (US) a policeman; thus bear in the air n., a police helicopter [f. US Forest Service’s mascot Smokey the Bear].

[US]L. Dills CB Slanguage 8: Bear Cage/Den/Lair: police station; Bear in the Air/Sky: police helicopter; Bearded Buddy: police of any kind.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Apr. 1: bears – highway patrol men. police.
[US]G.V. Higgins Rat on Fire (1982) 88: No cops around. No bears in the woods from One-twenty-eight all the way the terminal.

In phrases

bear for, a

a devotee of, a stickler for, a fan of; the implication is of strict discipline.

[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe on the Job 97: Say, I’m a bear for Paris.
[US]D.G. Rowse Doughboy Dope 85: Many a guy who was a bear for yelling on the college campus finds himself out-yodelled by some meek individual.
[UK]L. Thomas Woodfill of the Regulars 271: The old boy was a bear for inspection.
[US](con. 1943–5) A. Murphy To Hell and Back (1950) 151: Be sure you address me properly when the head nurse is around. She’s a bear for rank.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 304: Sweeney was a bear for work.
[US]C. Stroud Close Pursuit (1988) 79: Stokovich wanted no prima donnas on the squad, and he was a bear for records, summaries, notes.
[US]C. Hiaasen Native Tongue 105: I’m a regular bear for tape decks and Camcorders and shit like that.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

bear cat (n.) [SE bearcat] (US)

1. an aggressive or forceful person (occas. animal); something violent.

Courier-Jrnl (Louisville, KY) 2 Apr. 6/3: [of a racehorse] Edgeley, a bear-cat in the heavy going, was the one to take down the money.
[US]H.L. Wilson Professor How Could You! 268: You are just a wistful old bearcat [... ] one, in short, with a magnetic personality whose power over such as won his notice would be found all too plausible by casual reporters.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 19: bearcat A good prize fighter; one with plenty of gumption.
[US](con. 1943) A. Myrer Big War 225: ‘I think it’s going to be a bear cat.’ ‘As bad as Tarawa?’ ‘Worse’. [Ibid.] 356: I’m a bear-cat.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]Dahlskog Dict. Contemp. and Colloq. Usage.
[UK](con. late 19C) J.T. Edson Gentle Giant 87: He was no ‘bear cat’ as a bullying and unpopular gang boss was termed.

2. something excellent, first-rate; a person with great energy or ability.

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 17: [of a golf shot] Oh mommer!! There’s a bearcat.
[US]R. Lardner ‘Alibi Ike’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 50: Why should a man pull an alibi for bein’ engaged to such a bearcat as she was?
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 107: Ain’t she a bearcat!
[US]W.N. Burns One-Way Ride 284: He’d have been a bear-cat as a Central Bureau dick.
[US]W.R. Burnett Dark Hazard (1934) 79: You know Marg [...] You’re sure a bearcat at fixing things up. This place is swell.
[US](con. 1943) A. Myrer Big War 221: Isn’t that a bear-cat though?
bear fight (n.)

(UK society) a play fight, a bit of ‘rough-and-tumble’.

[UK]T. Hughes Tom Brown at Oxford (1880) 441: By Jove, what’s that? Dragoons [...] There’s going to be the d—st bear-fight.
bear-garden discourse (n.) (also bear-garden jaw, [SE bear garden, orig. a venue for bear-baiting, latterly any scene of rowdy behaviour + SE discourse/jaw n. (1)]

coarse language, vulgarity; sometimes abbr. as bear-garden.

[UK]J. Ray Proverbs (2nd edn) 66: He speaks Bear-garden.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew.
[UK]N. Ward ‘Sot’s Paradise’ in Writings (1704) 33: I Teas’d and Tir’d with this Bear-Garden Play, In doleful Dumps did for ten Tankards pay, / And Sick, not Drunk, did Homewards steer my way.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
bear-leader (n.) [the nickname for the tutors of the 18C who ferried their aristocratic pupils around the ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe]

a travelling tutor; thus by ext. an expert who teaches by example; bear-led, mollycoddled, controlled.

H. Walpole Letter To Mann 4 June II 392: I shall not wonder if she takes me for his bear-leader, his travelling governor! [F&H].
[UK]Foote Englishman Returned from Paris in Works (1799) I 98: Servant. My young master’s travelling tutor, sir, just arrived. Crab. [...] Shew him in. This bear-leader, I reckon now, is either the clumsy curate of the knight’s own parish church, or some needy highlander.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Bear leader. A travelling tutor.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Thackeray Book of Snobs (1889) 32: They pounced upon the stray nobility, and seized young lords travelling with their bear-leaders.
‘Ouida’ Massarenes 26: ‘I am not a bear-leader,’ said Lady Kenilworth, with hauteur [F&H].
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 143: He then undertook the post of bear-leader to the son of one of our local magnates, in which capacity he visited nearly every quarter of the habitable globe.
[UK]A. Brazil Luckiest Girl in School 67: ‘[S]hut up ! A boy of sixteen isn’t going to be bear-led by an old fogey like Joynson’.
bear mash (n.)

(US black) very strong (illicitly distilled) whisky .

[US]I. Cox [song title] Bear Mash Blues.
bear meat (n.) [the size of a bear]

(US) an easy target.

[US]E. Bunker No Beast So Fierce 169: ‘How is it?’ [...] ‘It’s bear meat. If we brought the cannons we’d get him right now.’ ‘That good, huh?’.
bear party (n.)

an all-male party, esp. on the night preceding the wedding of one of the men.

[UK]A. Smith Natural History of the Gent 93: They are men [...] strongly addicted to bear parties —who think ‘a glass of grog and a weed’ the acme of social enjoyment.
bear’s ass (n.) [ass n. (2)]

1. (US campus) a fool, an ignoramus.

[US]Current Sl. IV:3–4 (1970).

2. (US) a harsh taskmaster.

Cher cited in Lighter HDAS I 115/2: I am a tough person to work with. I mean I can be a bear’s ass.
bear sign (n.) [cowboy/trapper jargon bear sign, bear droppings; a doughnut has a similar shape]

(US) a doughnut.

[US]A. Adams Log Of A Cowboy 280: She asked me to make the bear sign – doughnuts, she called them.
[US]R.F. Adams Cowboy Lingo 149: Doughnuts [...] were called ‘bear sign’.
[US] D. Clark ‘I Rode for Bear Sign’ 🌐 Bear sign are a golden delicacy. / Doughnuts, to you in town.
Official Louis L’Amour Discussion Forum 19 Feb. 🌐 OLYKOEKS (‘Bear sign’) (Oily Cakes, or Raised Doughnuts).
bearskin (n.)

1. the pubic hair, orig. hair [resemblance].

[UK]Jonson Case Is Altered IV iv: Nothing but hair [...] This bear’s skin.
[Scot]Gentleman’s Bottle-Companion 3: Then came a Furrier, so bold and so stout / With a rum-ti-dum, &c. / And he with a bear-skin did fur it about.

2. (UK Und.) money [fur as a trading commodity].

[UK]C. Hitchin Conduct of Receivers and Thief-Takers 11: Now let us see how the Bear-Skin is divided, viz. you will have ten Pounds, and I shall have six Pounds, and the Cull, alias the Fool, will have four Pounds.
bear story (n.) (also bear tale, bear yarn) [the wildly overblown stories told by bear-trappers and other woodsmen to credulous listeners, the heading ‘A Bear Story’ appeared regularly in mid-19C US papers]

(US) a ‘tall story’, an exaggerated story.

[[US]Sandusky Clarion (OH) 7 Jan. 3/2: [headline] A Bear Story].
[US]Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA) 16 Feb. 2/5: This is a ‘bear story;’ whether true or not is more than we can say.
[US]Spirit of the Times (N.Y.) 25 Oct. 129/1: Whether the forty-bear-in-a-day story [...] was founded on fact, or was merely a bear-story, we are unable to decide.
[US]Atlantic Monthly 28 564/2: A company of hunters [...] went on in their old eternal way of making bear-stories out of whole cloth.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 16 Dec. 2/1: The country editors are at us again with the regular winter crop of bear stories. They give us no rest, these rustic liars.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 18 Jan. 4/4: He therefore called upon T. H. to open the ball, which he did [...] with a fish yarn, and Charlie then followed with a bear yarn .
Hall Collection 189/1: A fellow would come in and tell a little extra story, a little out of line, like he’d had a extra drink or somethin’; we’d call that a bear tale. It meant his story was a little exaggerated in places [DARE].
[US]McCulloch Woods Words n.p.: Bear story – Any kind of a tall story. Once the bear story was an important part of daily life in the woods, but bears, and bear hunters, and bear stories are all much scarcer nowadays.
bear trap (n.)

(US) a difficult situation.

R.M. Bird Hawks I 269: Look you, boy, you are in a bear-trap, and the log will soon be on your back [DARE].
[US]McCulloch Woods Words n.p.: Bear Trap [...] A tricky situation [...] A tangle of logs such that when the bucker makes a cut, one or more logs may roll and mash him.
bear-trapper’s hat (n.)

a large, hairy vagina, esp. one that is dark in colour.

[UK]Roger’s Profanisaurus in Viz 87 Dec. n.p.: bear trappers hat sim. Hairy front bottom. As in ‘She had a fanny like a bear trapper’s hat’. Also Davy Crockett’s hat.

In phrases

bring on your bears

(US) a challenge, ‘do your worst’.

Kentucky Trib. (Danville, KY) 3 May 1/3: Call you this a game of brag? [...] Bring On Your Bears.
[US]Baltimore Sun (MD) 23 Feb. 4/1: Every child in the city [...] would have said to the President, like the children in the story, ‘bring on your bears’.
Brooklyn Dly Eagle 27 May 2/6: Good bye grumblers. ‘Bring on your bears,’ if you have any: but don’t threaten and insinuate.
[US]St Paul Globe (MN) 20 Sept. 9/5: Inside a month there will be [...] 500 live men working for the regular candidate and against the Minneapolis ring [...] Bring on your bears.
[US]Chicago Trib. 13 Sept. [headline] Bring On Your Bears!
[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.
[US]Dly Arkansas Gaz. (Little Rock, AR) 29 July 5/2: They had no doubt at other times cried out bravely, ‘bring on your bears,’ but it was quite another thing when the bear was brought upon the scene.
can’t go no further, like the bear’s brother (also ain’t no further...) [assonance]

(US black) miserable, out of sorts, dejected.

[US]Z.N. Hurston ‘Story in Harlem Sl.’ in Novels and Stories (1995) 1002: ‘What’s cookin’?’ ‘Oh, just like de bear – I ain’t nowhere. Like de bear’s brother, I ain’t no further.’.
D. Burley N.Y. Amsterdam Star-News 3 Apr. 13: What’s your wish, tuna fish? If you want to gargle, be like the bear’s brother, try and get further.
do the bear (v.) [Sp. hacer el oso, do the bear; such ‘hands-on’ courtship was sanctioned in Mexico]

(Mexican/US) a form of courtship that involves hugging.

[UK] press cutting in J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 114/1: Courtship is carried on in a most extraordinary manner in Mexico. The part a man plays in a courtship is called ‘doing the bear’, which is a translation of ‘pacer el oso’. It is quite a common expression in Mexico to say: ‘I am doing the bear to Miss So-and-so’; or for the girl to say: ‘That young man is doing the bear to me.’.
feed the bears (v.)

(orig. Citizen’s Band radio) to pay a parking fine, to get a parking ticket.

[US]L. Dills CB Slanguage 4: Aviator: speeding driver; e.g. ‘That aviator is looking to feed the bears.’ [Ibid.] 33: Don’t Feed the Bears: don’t get a parking ticket.
Citizens Band Mid-West Gloss. of CB Jargon 🌐 Feed the Bears: To receive a ticket or to pay a fine: ‘I had to feed the bears.’ (Had to pay a speeding ticket, usually in ‘green stamps.’).
just like the bear, ain’t nowhere (also like the bear – nowhere, like the bear’s brother Eddie, he ain’t ready, like the bear’s nephew Joe, who really doesn’t know) [assonance; note Jack the Bear n.]

(US black) unhappy or unsuccessful in life or a given situation.

[US]Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 27 Jan. 7/1: In Boston [...] racial prejudice runs rampant and the negro ‘ain’t nowhere’.
[US]D. Burley N.Y. Amsterdam News 19 Oct, 20: Joe the Jiver is a solid conniver. Yep, he’s like the bear’s brother Eddie, the cat ain’t ready.
[US]N.Y. Age 20 July 10/5: Santos Barksdale is just like a Bear (Need we say more?).
[US]Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 26 Apr. 7/2: He might be tops in ‘Native Son,’ but like the bear in driving he ain’t nowhere.
D. Burley N.Y. Amsterdam Star-News 10 May 13: Laces long enough to tie up the Bear’s Nephew, Joe, who really doesn’t know!
[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 35: Like the Bear, he was somewhere!
[US]W. Fisher Waiters 74: Just another broke-ass waiter. Like the bear—nowhere.
[US]‘Ed Lacy’ Room to Swing 122: Honey, I don’t think anything. I’m like a bear — nowhere.
[US]R.S. Gold Jazz Lex. xxii: We should perhaps take note of the brief (c. 1935–c. 1940) vogue of rhyming slang in jazz which, unlike the British practice, was based generally on logical similes: e.g., mellow like a cello; fine as wine; like the bear, I ain’t nowhere (i.e., an extension of the lumbering physical qualities of the animal to the immobilized spiritual state of a man).
just like the bear(’s daughter), ain’t got a quarter (also just like the bear’s brother, Jim, his pickings are slim) [assonance]

(US black) miserable, out of sorts, dejected.

[US]Z.N. Hurston ‘Story in Harlem Sl.’ in Novels and Stories (1995) 1002: ‘What’s cookin’?’ ‘Oh, just like de bear – I ain’t nowhere. Like de bear’s brother, I ain’t no further. Like de bear’s daughter – ain’t got a quarter.’.
[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 52: A homey ain’t nowhere— just like the bear’s brother, Jim, for him the pickins are slim.
nothing to the bear but his curly hair

(US black) a phr. implying that a noisy, bragging aggressive person is in fact all show and cowardice.

[US]Z.N. Hurston ‘Story in Harlem Sl.’ in Novels and Stories (1995) 1009: Nothing to the bear but his curly hair: I call your bluff.
show someone where the bear shit in the buckwheat (v.) [shit v. (1a)]

(US) to let someone know what’s what, to tell someone off; thus know where the bear... v., to understand a situation.

[US]J. Wambaugh Onion Field 123: Maybe he ain’t so dumb after all [...] Maybe he really does know where the bear shit in the buckwheat.
F. Darabont Shawshank Redemption [film script] I don’t need no smart wife-killin’ banker to show me where the bear shit in the buckwheat. 🌐 Last year was his first shootout and did not do too well. However, he is very patient and with a year under his belt he now knows where the bear shit in the buckwheat is.
posting at 🌐 All I do is tell them exactly where the bear shit in the buckwheat.
stand the bears (v.)

to suffer.

[UK]N. Ward London Spy XVII 409: By this time in came my brother Nomenater, who was to stand the Bears with me.