A few days ago
Jeff A

Why does the word “nightmare” mean bad dream?

Why does the word “nightmare” mean bad dream?

Top 1 Answers
A few days ago

Favorite Answer

Shoot… I looked this one up before… I’ll get back to you!!! (this just turned into a personal quest)


“Night” obviously means “night” but “mare” is far more interesting. Take a look at this.


c.1290, “an evil female spirit afflicting sleepers with a feeling of suffocation,” compounded from night + mare “goblin that causes nightmares, incubus,” from O.E. mare “incubus,” from mera, mære, from P.Gmc. *maron “goblin,” from PIE *mora- “incubus,” from base *mer- “to rub away, harm, seize” (cf. first element in O.Ir. Morrigain “demoness of the corpses,” lit. “queen of the nightmare,” also Bulg., Serb., Pol. mora “incubus;” Fr. cauchemar, with first element is from O.Fr. caucher “to trample”). Meaning shifted mid-16c. from the incubus to the suffocating sensation it causes. Sense of “any bad dream” first recorded 1829; that of “very distressing experience” is from 1831.

So it pretty much means night demon. Yay!