A bugaboo is a boogeyman: a made-up monster that people use to scare (and control) children.
More generally, a bugaboo is anything that scares and concerns people, sometimes more than it reasonably should.
(The word "bugaboo" probably arose as a different form of the word "bugbear," which means exactly the same thing.)
BUG uh boo
Part of speech:
the countable kind: "a bugaboo," "this bugaboo," "some bugaboos."
Just the plural, "bugaboos."
How to use it:
Despite being so fun and whimsical, "bugaboo" shows up often in straight-faced discussions of science, tech, sports, politics, finances, religion, etc.
Talk about someone's bugaboo, something's bugaboo, or the bugaboo of or for some person or group (or some activity or situation). "That's her bugaboo." "It's an economist's bugaboo." "Scarce and costly labor has been a bugaboo for builders" (the Dallas Morning News). "Blisters are the bugaboos of physical activity" (the New York Times).
You can specify what the bugaboo is by calling it "the bugaboo of something:" the bugaboo of socialism, the bugaboo of identity politics, the bugaboo of high-fructose corn syrup.
And you can say that people fall prey to a bugaboo, get worked up over some bugaboo, or even use something as a bugaboo to manipulate others.
Or say that something serves as a bugaboo for some people, or that some bugaboo is haunting or threatening someone (or something, like an established tradition).
examples: In her autobiography, Lauren Graham addresses the sexism in interviewers' questions, that bugaboo for all actresses.