The Bear: What Does Matae Mean in the FX Series? Fan Theories Explored

matae the bear
Credit: FX Productions | Hulu | Screenshot from official The Bear Trailer: | Fair Use For Promotional Purposes

matae the bear
Credit: FX Productions | Hulu | Screenshot from official The Bear Trailer: | Fair Use For Promotional Purposes

In season 1 of The Bear, a character utters the enigmatic phrase "Say matae." So, what does "matae" in The Bear series mean? Fans have tons of theories!

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Who Says "Matae" in The Bear and When?

The phrase "say matae" is heard in The Bear season 1 episode 5 titled Sheridan, courtesy of Richard "Richie" Jerimovich (portrayed by Ebon Moss-Bachrach).

Moss-Bachrach's character, Richie, is the best friend of Michael, Carmy's later brother. He acts as the de facto manager of the restaurant.

He keeps repeating this phrase during a fight with Neil Fak, another childhood friend of Carmy's family.

Sometimes, Fak acts as a handyman for the restaurant. The episode in question features a physical fight between Neil and Richie over the latter's drug dealing.

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What Does "Matae" Mean? Theories Explained

So far, The Bear team hasn't officially addressed the meaning of Richie's "Say Matae" so it's up to the fans of the show to come up with a plausible meaning.

A common consensus is that "matae" could be a reference to Bloodsport, a 1988 movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

This is a martial arts/sports film and since episode 5 of The Bear's first season gets Neil Fak involved in a physical fight, this could actually be plausible.

In Japanese sports, such as ninjutsu which we see in the movie, "Matte" can be one of the words used by the referee to stop a match.

In the context of the movie, the word was also used to mean "I give up."

Of course, given that no other references to the movie are present in the show, this is probably something few fans will get unless they're also fans of 80s martial arts films.

If we look at the etymology of the word "matae" the Wiktionary explains it as a verb meaning "cause to defecate" or "happen to defecate" which would also be somewhat plausible in the context of being offensive in a restaurant.

However, in the context of how Richie used it and said it, we aren't persuaded that he was referring to bodily functions.

Finally, other fans mentioned that "matae" is an old-fashioned way to say "uncle" that was used in the 90s in the Midwest.

This, too, has not been confirmed by anyone working on The Bear but based on the context, we would agree it means something akin to "timeout" or "I give up."

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