Word of the Day

teddy bear


a soft toy bear

Origin and usage

The word teddy bear came into common usage around the start of the 20th century to refer to a stuffed toy animal. The name derives from the former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, whose nickname was ‘Teddy’.


Although stuffed animal toys were common long before the start of the 20th century, they came to be referred to as teddy bears shortly after a hunting trip attended by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902. The story goes that, after three days with no luck in finding a bear, the dogs in the party finally hunted one down. The bear was offered to Roosevelt to take as the prize, but since it was older and injured, Roosevelt refused, requesting instead that the bear be put down humanely in the name of sportsmanship. The story spread across newspapers throughout the country, and Clifford Berryman, a political cartoonist, drew his now famous depiction of Roosevelt refusing to shoot the bear.

Following the publication of this image, for the rest of his life Roosevelt was associated with bears. A New York candy shop owner by the name of Morris Mitchum decided to play off the popularity of the bear imagery by selling stuffed bears under the label of ‘Teddy’s bears’, which grew wildly popular across the United States and then eventually the globe. Since then, many other toy companies have gone on to sell what are now known as teddy bears.


“I don’t think my parents liked me. They put a live teddy bear in my crib.”

(Woody Allen)

“The cell phone has become the adult’s transitional object, replacing the toddler’s teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.”

(Margaret Heffernan)


bear, dolly, stuffed animal, soft toy

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary is an award-winning, one-stop reference for English learners and speakers around the world.

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