The word has several meanings and is used in some very imaginative ways.
— a contemptible or pitied person, usually a man
— a person who commits buggery (penetrating the anus, sodomy)
— used as a term of affection or respect, usually grudgingly
— used to express annoyance or anger (bugger! buggeration!)
Though regarded as vulgar slang in some places, within the Anglo-Indian community in India the word bugger has been in use, in an affectionate manner, to address or refer to a close friend or fellow schoolmate. In the US, it can be a rough synonym to “whippersnapper” as in calling a young boy a “little bugger.”
As with many expletives, its continued use has reduced its shock value and offensiveness. The term is generally not used in the United States. It’s frequently used in Canada, as it is in Britain, but with less stigma than in other parts of the world.
The word can be used to imply that one is very fond of something (I’m a bugger for Welsh cakes). And it can imply a negative tendency (He’s a silly bugger for losing his keys).
The term arose around the early 13th century, from the Bogomils, who led a religious sect during the Middle Ages called, in Latin, “Bulgarus.” Through various languages, the term morphed into “bugger.” The Roman Church considered the Bogomils heretical and insulted them by saying they approached sex in an “inverse way.” In Hungarian, a related word still means a slur for homosexual men.
Examples of how the word is used:
bugger all — meaning “nothing”
bugger me — denotes real or feigned surprise
I’ll be buggered — denotes real or feigned surprise
I’m buggered if — meaning “I’m damned if”
not give a bugger — not care in the slightest
play silly buggers — act in a foolish way
bugger off — go away
I’m buggered — I’m tired
It’s buggered — it’s broken
It’s gone to buggery — it’s broken
I’ve buggered it up — I’ve broken or mishandled something
bugger about — fool around, not accomplish anything
bugger’s muddle — a total mess
bugger it! — implies frustration or admission of defeat
There’s a story in which it is alleged that the last words of King George V, in response to a suggestion that he might recover from his illness and visit Bognor Regis, were “Bugger Bognor!”
If the story is true, King George V liked alliteration just as much as all the rest of us do.