We just discussed “forgo” and “forego”. The situation is similar with “forbear” and “forebear”.
To forbear is to manifest great patience under extreme difficulty or suffering. “Forbear” is a verb. Its noun form is “forbearance”.
A forebear is an ancestor. With that extra “e”, the word normally is a noun. Your forebears are your forefathers and foremothers.
Full disclosure: I’ve never heard of foremothers or seen the word in writing. But I’m assuming it’s a real word, since my spell-checker isn’t correcting it. Anyway, “foremothers” ought to be a real word, since our feminine ancestors deserve just as much credit as their mates for our being here.
That’s also a good reason to use the word “forebear”, which is gender-neutral – and far less awkward than “forefathers and foremothers”.
As with “forgo” and “forego”, the key to remembering the distinction is that telltale “fore” (as in “before”). If we’re talking about child-bearers before us (meaning our ancestors), the word is “forebear”.
But I hope you’ll just forbear with me whenever I harp too intently on these lexical fine points.
Spelling aside, one difference is that “forbear” places the accent on its second syllable. “Forebear” has it on the first.
(This article is part of my series on words that are #worth1000pictures.)