- bawdry (n.)
- "obscenity," late 14c., probably from Old French bauderie "boldness, ardor, elation, pride" (see bawd).
- bawdy (adj.)
- late 14c., "soiled, dirty, filthy," from bawd + -y (2). Meaning "lewd" is from 1510s, from notion of "pertaining to or befitting a bawd;" usually of language (originally to talk bawdy).
Bawdy Basket, the twenty-third rank of canters, who carry pins, tape, ballads and obscene books to sell. [Grose, "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," 1785]
Related: Bawdily; bawdiness.
- bawl (v.)
- mid-15c., "to howl like a dog," from Old Norse baula "to low like a cow," and/or Medieval Latin baulare "to bark like a dog," both echoic. Meaning "to shout loudly" attested from 1590s. To bawl (someone) out "reprimand loudly" is 1908, American English. Related: Bawled; bawling.
- bay (n.1)
- "inlet of the sea," c.1400, from Old French baie, Late Latin baia (c.640), perhaps ultimately from Iberian bahia.
- bay (n.2)
- "opening in a wall," late 14c. (especially bay window, early 15c.), from Old French baee "opening, hole, gulf," noun use of fem. past participle of bayer "to gape, yawn," from Medieval Latin batare "gape," perhaps of imitative origin. It is the bay in sick-bay.
- bay (n.3)
- "howl of a dog," early 14c., earlier "howling chorus raised (by hounds) when in contact with the hunted animal," c.1300, from Old French bayer, from PIE root *bai- echoic of howling (cf. Greek bauzein, Latin baubari "to bark," English bow-wow; cf. also bawl). From the hunting usage comes the transferred sense of "final encounter," and thence, on the notion of putting up an effective defense, at bay.
- bay (adj.)
- "reddish-brown," usually of horses, mid-14c., from Anglo-French bai (13c.), Old French bai, from Latin badius "chestnut-brown" (used only of horses), from PIE *badyo- "yellow, brown" (cf. Old Irish buide "yellow"). Also elliptical for a horse of this color.
- bay (n.4)
- laurel shrub (Laurus nobilis, source of the bay leaf), late 14c., originally only of the berry, from Old French baie (12c.) "berry, seed," from Latin baca "berry." Extension to the shrub itself is from 1520s. The leaves or sprigs were woven as wreaths for conquerors or poets. Bayberry first recorded 1570s, after the original sense had shifted.
- bay (v.)
- "to bark or howl (at)," late 14c., from bay (n.3). Related: Bayed; baying.
- Bayard (n.)
- generic or mock-heroic name for a horse, mid-14c., from Old French Baiard, name of the bay-colored magic steed given by Charlemagne to Renaud in the legends, from Old French baiart "bay-colored" (see bay (adj.)). Also by early 14c. proverbial as a blind person or thing, for now-unknown reasons. The name later was used attributively of gentlemen of courage and integrity, in this sense from Pierre du Terrail, seigneur de Bayard (1473-1524), French knight celebrated as Chevalier sans peur et sans reproche. The surname is perhaps in reference to hair color.
- bayonet (n.)
- 1610s, originally a type of dagger; as a steel stabbing weapon fitted to the muzzle of a firearm, from 1670s, from French baionnette (16c.), said to be from Bayonne, city in Gascony where supposedly they first were made; or perhaps it is a diminutive of Old French bayon "crossbow bolt." The city name is from Late Latin baia "bay" + Basque on "good." As a verb from c.1700.
- bayou (n.)
- 1766, via Louisiana French, from Choctaw bayuk "small stream."
- bazaar (n.)
- 1580s, from Italian bazarra, ultimately from Persian bazar (Pahlavi vacar) "a market."
- bazar (n.)
- alternative spelling of bazaar.
- bazooka (n.)
- "metal tube rocket launcher," 1942, from name of a junkyard musical instrument used (c.1935) as a prop by U.S. comedian Bob Burns (1896-1956); extension of bazoo, slang for "mouth" or "boastful talk" (1877), probably from Dutch bazuin "trumpet."
- bazooms (n.)
- "woman's breasts," especially when deemed prominent, 1955, American English slang alteration of bosoms.
- see B.B.C.
- abbreviation of barbecue, by 1956, American English.
- see B.C.E.
- be (v.)
- Old English beon, beom, bion "be, exist, come to be, become, happen," from Proto-Germanic *biju- "I am, I will be." This "b-root" is from PIE root *bheue- "to be, exist, grow, come into being," and in addition to the words in English it yielded German present first and second person singular (bin, bist, from Old High German bim "I am," bist "thou art"), Latin perfective tenses of esse (fui "I was," etc.), Old Church Slavonic byti "be," Greek phu- "become," Old Irish bi'u "I am," Lithuanian bu'ti "to be," Russian byt' "to be," etc. It also is behind Sanskrit bhavah "becoming," bhavati "becomes, happens," bhumih "earth, world."
The modern verb to be in its entirety represents the merger of two once-distinct verbs, the "b-root" represented by be and the am/was verb, which was itself a conglomerate. Roger Lass ("Old English") describes the verb as "a collection of semantically related paradigm fragments," while Weekley calls it "an accidental conglomeration from the different Old English dial[ect]s." It is the most irregular verb in Modern English and the most common. Collective in all Germanic languages, it has eight different forms in Modern English:
BE (infinitive, subjunctive, imperative)
AM (present 1st person singular)
ARE (present 2nd person singular and all plural)
IS (present 3rd person singular)
WAS (past 1st and 3rd persons singular)
WERE (past 2nd person singular, all plural; subjunctive)
BEING (progressive & present participle; gerund)
BEEN (perfect participle).
The paradigm in Old English was:
|1st pres.||ic eom|
|2nd pres.||þu eart|
|3rd pres.||he is|
|1st pret.||ic wæs||we wæron|
|2nd pret.||þu wære||ge waeron|
|3rd pret.||heo wæs||hie wæron|
|1st pret. subj.||ic wære||we wæren|
|2nd pret. subj.||þu wære||ge wæren|
|3rd pret. subj.||Egcferð wære||hie wæren|
The "b-root" had no past tense in Old English, but often served as future tense of am/was. In 13c. it took the place of the infinitive, participle and imperative forms of am/was. Later its plural forms (we beth, ye ben, they be) became standard in Middle English and it made inroads into the singular (I be, thou beest, he beth), but forms of are claimed this turf in the 1500s and replaced be in the plural. For the origin and evolution of the am/was branches of this tangle, see am and was.
That but this blow Might be the be all, and the end all. ["Macbeth" I.vii.5]
- word-forming element with a wide range of meaning: "thoroughly, completely; to make, cause seem; to provide with; at, on, to, for," from Old English be- "on all sides" (also used to make transitive verbs and as a privative or intensive prefix), from weak form of Old English bi "by," probably cognate with second syllable of Greek amphi, Latin ambi and originally meaning "about" (see ambi-).
This sense naturally drifted into intensive (cf. bespatter "spatter about," therefore "spatter very much"). Be- can also be privative (cf. behead), causative, or have just about any sense required. The prefix was productive 16c.-17c. in forming useful words, many of which have not survived, e.g. bethwack "to thrash soundly" (1550s), betongue "to assail in speech, to scold" (1630s).
- be-all (n.)
- see be.
- be-in (n.)
- "a public gathering of hippies" [OED], 1967, from be + in.
- beach (n.)
- 1530s, "loose, water-worn pebbles of the seashore," probably from Old English bæce, bece "stream," from Proto-Germanic *bakiz. Extended to loose, pebbly shores (1590s), and in dialect around Sussex and Kent beach still has the meaning "pebbles worn by the waves." French grève shows the same evolution. Beach ball first recorded 1940; beach bum first recorded 1950.
- beach (v.)
- "to haul or run up on a beach," 1840, from beach (n.). Related: Beached; beaching.
- beach-comber (n.)
- 1840, from beach (n.) + agent noun from comb (v.).
- beachfront (adj.)
- also beach-front, 1903, American English, from beach (n.) + front (n.). The beach front was a standard way in late 19c. to express "the seashore of a town" such as Atlantic City.
- beachhead (n.)
- 1940, in reference to German military tactics in World War II, from beach (n.) + head (n.), on the model of bridgehead, but the image doesn't quite work.
- beacon (n.)
- Old English beacen "sign, portent, lighthouse," from West Germanic *baukna "beacon, signal" (cf. Old Frisian baken, Old Saxon bokan, Old High German bouhhan); not found outside Germanic. Perhaps borrowed from Latin bucina "a crooked horn or trumpet, signal horn." But more likely from PIE *bhew-, a variant of the base *bha- "to gleam, shine" (see phantasm). Figurative use from c.1600.
- bead (n.)
- mid-14c., bede "prayer bead," from Old English gebed "prayer," with intensive or collective prefix *ge- + Proto-Germanic *bidjan "to pray, entreat" (cf. Middle Dutch bede, Old High German beta, German bitte, Gothic bida "prayer, request"), from PIE *gwhedh- "to ask, pray." Shift in meaning came via beads threaded on a string to count prayers, and in phrases like to bid one's beads, to count one's beads. German cognate Bitte is the usual word for conversational request "please." Also related to bid (Old English biddan) and Gothic bidjan "to ask, pray." Sense transferred to "drop of liquid" 1590s; to "small knob forming front sight of a gun" 1831 (Kentucky slang); hence draw a bead on "take aim at," 1841, U.S. colloquial.
- bead (v.)
- 1570s, "to adorn with beads," from bead (n.). Meaning "to string like beads" is from 1883. Related: Beaded; beading.
- beadle (n.)
- Old English bydel "herald, messenger from an authority, preacher," from beodan "to proclaim" (see bid). Sense of "warrant officer, tipstaff" was in late Old English; that of "petty parish officer," which has given the job a bad reputation, is from 1590s. French bédeau (Old French bedel, 12c.) is a Germanic loan-word.
- beadsman (n.)
- "one who prays for another's benefit," early 13c.; see bead (n.) + man (n.).
- beady (adj.)
- in reference to eyes, 1826, from bead (n.) + -y (2). Related: Beadily; beadiness.
- beagle (n.)
- late 15c., of unknown origin, possibly from French becguele "noisy person," literally "gaping throat," from bayer "open wide" (see bay (n.2)) + gueule "mouth" (see gullet).
- beak (n.)
- mid-13c., "bird's bill," from Old French bec "beak," figuratively "mouth," also "tip or point of a nose, a lance, a ship, a shoe," from Latin beccus (cf. Italian becco, Spanish pico), said by Suetonius ("De vita Caesarum" 18) to be of Gaulish origin, perhaps from Gaulish beccus, possibly related to Celtic stem bacc- "hook." Or there may be a link in Old English becca "pickax, sharp end." Jocular sense of "human nose" is from 1854 (but also was used mid-15c. in the same sense).
- beaker (n.)
- "open large-mouthed vessel," mid-14c., from Old Norse bikarr or Middle Dutch beker "goblet," probably (with Old Saxon bikeri, Old High German behhari, German Becher) from Medieval Latin bicarium, which itself is probably a diminutive of Greek bikos "earthenware jug, wine jar" (said to be an oriental word, perhaps a borrowing from Syrian buqa "a two-handed vase or jug"). Form assimilated in English to beak.
- beal (n.)
- "mouth of a river or valley," 1818 (in Scott), from Gaelic beul "mouth."
- beam (n.)
- Old English beam originally "living tree," but by late 10c. also "rafter, post, ship's timber," from West Germanic *baumaz (cf. Old Frisian bam "tree, gallows, beam," Middle Dutch boom, Old High German boum, German Baum "tree"), perhaps from PIE verb root *bheue- "to grow" (see be).
Meaning "ray of light" developed in Old English, probably because it was used by Bede to render Latin columna lucis, the Biblical "pillar of fire." Nautical sense of "one of the horizontal transverse timbers holding a ship together" is from early 13c., hence "greatest breadth of a ship," and slang broad in the beam "wide-hipped" (of persons). To be on the beam (1941) was originally an aviator's term for "to follow the course indicated by a radio beam."
- beam (v.)
- "emit rays of light," early 15c., from beam (n.) in the "ray of light" sense. Sense of "to smile radiantly" is from 1804; that of "to direct radio transmissions" is from 1927. Related: Beamed; beaming.
- beamish (adj.)
- 1530 (Palsgrave), from beam + -ish. Lewis Carroll may have thought he was inventing it in "Jabberwocky."
- bean (n.)
- Old English bean "bean, pea, legume," from Proto-Germanic *bauno (cf. Old Norse baun, Middle Dutch bone, Dutch boon, Old High German bona, German Bohne), perhaps from a PIE reduplicated base *bha-bha- and related to Latin faba "bean."
As a metaphor for "something of small value" it is attested from c.1300. Meaning "head" is U.S. baseball slang c.1905 (in bean-ball "a pitch thrown at the head"); thus slang verb bean meaning "to hit on the head," attested from 1910.
The notion of lucky or magic beans in English folklore is from the exotic beans or large seeds that wash up occasionally in Cornwall and western Scotland, carried from the Caribbean or South America by the Gulf Stream. They were cherished, believed to ward off the evil eye and aid in childbirth.
Slang bean-counter "accountant" recorded by 1971. To not know beans (American English, 1933) is perhaps from the "of little worth" sense, but may have a connection to colloquial expression recorded around Somerset, to know how many beans make five "be a clever fellow."
- bean bag (n.)
- also bean-bag, 1871 as a device in children's games, 1969 as a type of chair. From bean (n.) + bag (n.).
- beanery (n.)
- "cheap restaurant," 1884, American English, from bean (n.) + -ery.
- beanie (n.)
- "small, close-fitting hat," 1940, from bean (n.) in the slang sense of "head" + -ie.
- beano (n.)
- 1888, colloquial shortening of beanfest "annual dinner given by employers for their workers" (1805); they had a reputation for rowdiness. From bean (n.) + fest (n.).
- bear (v.)
- Old English beran "to bear, bring; bring forth, produce; to endure, sustain; to wear" (class IV strong verb; past tense bær, past participle boren), from Proto-Germanic *beranan (cf. Old Saxon beran, Old Frisian bera, Old High German beran, German gebären, Old Norse bera, Gothic bairan "to carry, bear, give birth to"), from PIE root *bher- (1) meaning both "give birth" (though only English and German strongly retain this sense, and Russian has beremennaya "pregnant") and "carry a burden, bring" (see infer).
Ball bearings "bear" the friction. Many senses are from notion of "move onward by pressure." Old English past tense bær became Middle English bare; alternative bore began to appear c.1400, but bare remained the literary form till after 1600. Past participle distinction of borne for "carried" and born for "given birth" is from late 18c. To bear (something) in mind is from 1530s.
- bear (n.)
- Old English bera "bear," from Proto-Germanic *beron, literally "the brown (one)" (cf. Old Norse björn, Middle Dutch bere, Dutch beer, Old High German bero, German Bär), from PIE *bher- (3) "bright, brown" (see brown (adj.)).
Greek arktos and Latin ursus retain the PIE root word for "bear" (*rtko; see Arctic), but it is believed to have been ritually replaced in the northern branches because of hunters' taboo on names of wild animals (cf. the Irish equivalent "the good calf," Welsh "honey-pig," Lithuanian "the licker," Russian medved "honey-eater"). Others connect the Germanic word with Latin ferus "wild," as if it meant "the wild animal (par excellence) of the northern woods."
Symbolic of Russia since 1794. Used of uncouth persons since 1570s. Stock market meaning "speculator for a fall" is 1709 shortening of bearskin jobber (from the proverb sell the bearskin before one has caught the bear); i.e. "one who sells stock for future delivery, expecting that meanwhile prices will fall." Paired with bull from c.1720. Bear claw as a type of large pastry is from 1942, originally chiefly western U.S.
- bear hug (n.)
- 1876, from bear (n.) + hug (n.).
- bearable (adj.)
- "endurable," mid-15c., from bear (v.) + -able. Related: Bearably.