What's the Meaning of the Phrase 'Bane of My Existence?'

By: Kristen Hall-Geisler  | 
"You are the bane of my existence ... and the object of all my desires," Anthony Bridgerton tells Kate Sharma in season 2 of Netflix's wildly popular period series "Bridgerton." Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix ©2022

In season 2 of "Bridgerton," Anthony utters a smoldering — if perplexing — declaration to Kate:

"You are the bane of my existence and the object of all my desires."


He delivers this line so convincingly that some viewers have taken it to be a full-throttle statement of love and devotion. But is that really what the viscount is saying here? Not quite.

What Is a 'Bane' Anyway?

Merriam-Webster says that a bane is a source of harm or ruin. That doesn't sound terribly romantic. Let's see if the Cambridge dictionary has a more hopeful definition: "a cause of continuous trouble or unhappiness." That's slightly better than a source of ruin, but it's not love either.

The word "bane" is quite old, coming from Old English through Middle English to Modern English pretty much unchanged. "Bana" in Old English meant "killer, murderer, manslayer." It was often combined with other words, like brothorbana (brother killer), or handbana (one who kills with his own hand).


So at least English has softened the definition of bane a bit over the last thousand years or so.

The Bane of Anything

In the 21st century, English speakers usually use the word bane the way Anthony did in "Bridgerton" as part of a phrase beginning "the bane of...," and it's often used ironically or to exaggerate how awful something is.

The Urban Dictionary points out that it's "something that is so disagreeable with your spirit that it feels like its existence might negate yours."


The laser pointer is almost certainly the bane of your cat's existence. Some people love avocado, while the hidden presence of guacamole in a burrito is the bane of someone else's lunch. A full email inbox is almost certainly the bane of one's workday. Or it could be used to describe a legitimate problem, like the fact that icy sidewalks are the bane of dogwalkers in the winter.

In "Bridgerton," Anthony was telling Kate that she was a royal pain (so to speak), but he couldn't keep himself from obsessing about her.

It's a real mixed bag, but it's the perfect thing for Lord Bridgerton to say to Miss Sharma as their relationship moves from enemies to lovers. However, calling someone the bane of your existence is not often the most romantic move.