I've just learned a word forbear which means to abstain from something or refrain from something. It was fine until that point, but the moment I learned the meaning of forbearance, I was confused because it had tolerance as its synonym. When forbearance is used to mean tolerance, is it implied that enforcement is what is abstained from? Then, why did it happen? Why did it become to also mean tolerance, not just abstaining from something?

  • etymology online: 1570s, originally legal, in reference to enforcement of debt obligations, from forbear (v.) + -ance. General sense of "a refraining from" is from 1590s. – Graffito Dec 4 '16 at 12:08
  • Wiktionary: From Middle English forberen, from Old English forberan ‎(“to forbear, abstain from, refrain; suffer, endure, tolerate, humor; restrain; do without”), from Proto-Germanic *fraberaną ‎(“to hold back, endure”), equivalent to for- +‎ bear. Cognate with Old Frisian forbera ‎(“to forfeit”), Middle High German verbërn ‎(“to have not; abstain; refrain from; avoid”), Gothic 𐍆𐍂𐌰𐌱𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌰𐌽 ‎(frabairan, “to endure”). – Graffito Dec 4 '16 at 12:08

Forbearance has two meanings. One is tolerance and the other is restraint. For example:

Her unfailing courtesy and forbearance under provocation

Her unfailing courtesy and self-control under provocation

The two meanings are very close. You tolerate something by restraining yourself from doing what your mind is telling you to do. It's self control. You restrain from something for the same reason.

Source: ODE

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.