Meaning & History
From the Middle English nickname Bere meaning "bear" (Old English bera, which is also found as a byname), or possibly from a personal name derived from a short form of the various Germanic compound names with this first element. Compare for example Bernhard. The bear has generally been regarded with a mixture of fear and amusement because of its strength and unpredictable temper on the one hand and its clumsy gait on the other, and in the medieval period it was also thought to typify the sins of sloth and gluttony. All these characteristics are no doubt reflected in the nickname. Throughout the Middle Ages the bear was a familiar figure in popular entertainments such as bear baiting and dancing bears.