beard (n.)
Old English beard "beard," from West Germanic *barthaz (cognates: Old Frisian berd, Middle Dutch baert, Old High German bart, German bart), seemingly from PIE *bhardh-a- "beard" (cognates: Old Church Slavonic brada, Lithuanian barzda, and perhaps Latin barba "beard").
The Greek and Roman Churches have long disputed about the beard. While the Romanists have at different times practised shaving, the Greeks, on the contrary, have strenuously defended the cause of long beards. Leo III. (795 AD) was the first shaved Pope. Pope Gregory IV., after the lapse of only 30 years, fulminated a Bull against bearded priests. In the 12th century the prescription of the beard was extended to the laity. Pope Honorius III. to disguise his disfigured lip, allowed his beard to grow. Henry I. of England was so much moved by a sermon directed against his beard that he resigned it to the barber. Frederick Barbarossa is said to have been equally tractable. [Tom Robinson, M.D., "Beards," "St. James's Magazine," 1881]
Pubic hair sense is from 1600s (but neþir berd "pubic hair" is from late 14c.); in the 1811 "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," the phrase beard-splitter is defined as, "A man much given to wenching" (see beaver).
beard (v.)
c.1300, "to grow or have a beard," from beard (n.). The sense of "confront boldly and directly" is from Middle English phrases such as rennen in berd "oppose openly" (c.1200), reproven in the berd "to rebuke directly and personally" (c.1400), on the same notion as modern slang get in (someone's) face. Related: Bearded; bearding.
beardless (adj.)
early 14c., from beard (n.) + -less.
bearer (n.)
Old English -berere (in water-berere), agent noun from bear (v.). Meaning "one who helps carry a corpse to the grave" is from 1630s.
bearing (n.)
"carrying of oneself, deportment," mid-13c., verbal noun from bear (v.). Mechanical sense of "part of a machine that bears the friction" is from 1791.
bearings (n.)
"parts of a machine which 'bear' the friction," 1791, from present participle of bear (v.). Meaning "direction from a point of reference" is from 1630s; to take (one's) bearings is from 1711.
bearish (adj.)
"grumpy, surly," 1744, from bear (n.) + -ish. Related: Bearishly; bearishness.
Bearnaise (n.)
"egg-and-butter sauce," 1877, from French sauce béarnaise, from fem. of béarnais "of Béarn," region in southwest France (named for the Benarni, a Gaulish tribe).
bearskin (n.)
from bear (n.) + skin (n.).
beast (n.)
c.1200, from Old French beste "animal, wild beast," figuratively "fool, idiot" (11c., Modern French bête), from Vulgar Latin *besta, from Latin bestia "beast, wild animal," of unknown origin. Used to translate Latin animal. Replaced Old English deor (see deer) as the generic word for "wild creature," only to be ousted 16c. by animal. Of persons felt to be animal-like in various senses from early 13c. Of the figure in the Christian apocalypse story from late 14c.
beastly (adj.)
c.1200, "brutish, sensual, debased;" late 14c., "in the manner of a beast," from beast + -ly (1). Weakened in British upper crust use to "awfully, exceedingly" by mid-19c. Beastly drunk is from 1803.
beat (v.)
Old English beatan "inflict blows on, thrash" (class VII strong verb; past tense beot, past participle beaten), from Proto-Germanic *bautan (cognates: Old Norse bauta, Old High German bozan "to beat"), from PIE root *bhau- "to strike" (see batter (v.)). Of the heart, c.1200, from notion of it striking against the breast. Meaning "to overcome in a contest" is from 1610s (the source of the sense of "legally avoid, escape" in beat the charges, etc., attested from c.1920 in underworld slang).

Past tense beat is from c.1500, probably not from Old English but a shortening of Middle English beted. Dead-beat (originally "tired-out") preserves the old past participle. Meaning "strike cover to rouse or drive game" (c.1400) is source of beat around the bush (1570s), the metaphoric sense of which has shifted from "make preliminary motions" to "avoid, evade." Command beat it "go away" first recorded 1906 (though "action of feet upon the ground" was a sense of Old English betan). To beat off "masturbate" is recorded by 1960s. For beat generation see beatnik.
beat (n.)
c.1300, "a beating, whipping; the beating of a drum," from beat (v.). As "throb of the heart" from 1755. Meaning "regular route travelled by someone" is attested from 1731, also "a track made by animals" (1736), from the sense of the "beat" of the feet on the ground (late Old English), or perhaps that in beat the bushes to flush game (c.1400), or beat the bounds (1560s). Extended to journalism by 1875. Musical sense is by 1842, perhaps from the motion of the conductor and the notion of "beating the time":
It is usual, in beating the time of a piece of music, to mark or signalize the commencement of every measure by a downward movement or beat of the hand, or of any other article that may be used for the purpose .... ["Godfrey Weber's General Music Teacher," 1842]
Earlier in music it meant a sort of grace note:
BEAT, in music, a transient grace note, struck immediately before the note it is intended to ornament. The beat always lies half a note beneath its principal, and should be heard so closely upon it, that they may almost seem to be struck together. ["The British Encyclopedia," London, 1809]
beat (adj.)
"defeated, overcome by effort," c.1400, from past tense of beat (v.). Meaning "tired, exhausted," is by 1905, American English.
beat up (v.)
"thrash, strike repeatedly," c.1900 (v.), from beat (v.). Beat-up as an adjectival phrase meaning "worn-out" dates to 1946.
beatable (adj.)
1610s, from beat (v.) + -able.
beaten (adj.)
"hammered" (of metal, etc.), c.1300, from past participle of beat (v.), which alternates with beat with some distinctions of sense. Meaning "defeated" is from 1560s; that of "repeatedly struck" is from 1590s.
beater (n.)
mid-14c., "an implement for beating;" mid-15c., "a person who punishes" (c.1200 as a surname); agent noun from beat (v.). Of various mechanical devices that "beat" in some sense from early 17c. Meaning "one who rouses game" is from 1825. Slang meaning "old car" is from c.1980.
beatific (adj.)
1630s, from French béatifique or directly from Late Latin beatificus, from Latin beatus "blessed" (see beatify). Related: Beatifical (c. 1600); beatifically.
beatification (n.)
c.1500, "act of rendering blessed," from Middle French béatification, noun of action and state from past participle stem of Late Latin beatificare (see beatify). As a papal declaration about the status of a deceased person, it dates from c.1600.
beatify (v.)
1530s, "to make very happy," from Middle French béatifer, from Late Latin beatificare "make happy, make blessed," from Latin beatus "supremely happy, blessed" (past participle of beare "to make happy, to bless") + -ficare, from stem of facere "to make, do" (see factitious). The Roman Catholic Church sense of "to pronounce as being in heavenly bliss" (1620s) is the first step toward canonization. Related: Beatified; beatifying.
beating (n.)
c.1200, beatunge "action of inflicting blows," verbal noun from beat (v.). Meaning "pulsation" is recorded from c.1600.
beatitude (n.)
early 15c., "supreme happiness," from Middle French béatitude (15c.) and directly from Latin beatitudinem (nominative beatitudo) "state of blessedness," from past participle stem of beare "make happy," related to bene-. As "a declaration of blessedness" (usually plural, beatitudes, especially in reference to the Sermon on the Mount) it is attested from 1520s.
Beatlemania (n.)
1963; see Beatles + mania.
The social phenomenon of Beatlemania, which finds expression in handbags, balloons and other articles bearing the likeness of the loved ones, or in the hysterical screaming of young girls whenever the Beatle Quartet performs in public. ["London Times," Dec. 27, 1963]
Beatles (n.)
seminal rock and pop group formed in Liverpool, England; named as such 1960 (after a succession of other names), supposedly by then-bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, from beetles (on model of Buddy Holly's band The Crickets) with a pun on the musical sense of beat. Their global popularity dates to 1963.
beatnik (n.)
coined 1958 by San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen during the heyday of -nik suffixes in the wake of Sputnik. From Beat generation (1952), associated with beat (n.) in its meaning "rhythm (especially in jazz)" as well as beat (past participle adjective) "worn out, exhausted," but originator Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) in 1958 connected it with beatitude.
The origins of the word beat are obscure, but the meaning is only too clear to most Americans. More than the feeling of weariness, it implies the feeling of having been used, of being raw. It involves a sort of nakedness of the mind. ["New York Times Magazine," Oct. 2, 1952]



"Beat" is old carny slang. According to Beat Movement legend (and it is a movement with a deep inventory of legend), Ginsberg and Kerouac picked it up from a character named Herbert Huncke, a gay street hustler and drug addict from Chicago who began hanging around Times Square in 1939 (and who introduced William Burroughs to heroin, an important cultural moment). The term has nothing to do with music; it names the condition of being beaten down, poor, exhausted, at the bottom of the world. [Louis Menand, "New Yorker," Oct. 1, 2007]
Beatrice
fem. proper name, from French Béatrice, from Latin beatrix, fem. of beatricem "who makes happy," from beatus "happy" (see beatitude).
beau (n.)
"attendant suitor of a lady," 1720, from French beau "the beautiful," noun use of an adjective, from Old French bel "beautiful, handsome, fair, genuine, real" (11c.), from Latin bellus "handsome, fine, pretty, agreeable," diminutive of bonus "good" (see bene-). Meaning "man who attends excessively to dress, etiquette, etc.; a fop; a dandy" is from 1680s, short for French beau garçon "pretty boy" (1660s).
beau monde (n.)
also beau-monde, "the fashionable world," 1714, French; see beau + monde, from Latin mundus "world" (see mundane).
beau-ideal (n.)
1801, from French beau idéal "the ideal beauty, beautifulness as an abstract ideal," in which beau is the subject, but as English usually puts the adjective first, the sense has shifted in English toward "perfect type or model."
beaucoup
French, literally "a great heap," from beau "fine, great" (see beau (n.)) + coup "a stroke," also "a throw," hence, "a heap" (see coup (n.)). Compare Spanish golpe "multitude."
Beaufort scale
to measure wind velocity, developed 1806 by Francis Beaufort (1774-1857), surveyor and hydrologist.
Beaujolais (n.)
type of Burgundy, 1863, from name of a district in the department of Lyonnais, France, which is named for the town of Beaujeu, from French beau "beautiful" + Latin jugum "hill."
beaut (n.)
1866, abbreviated form of beauty in the sense of "a beautiful thing or person."
beauteous (adj.)
mid-15c., from beauty + -ous. Now mostly limited to poetry and displaced elsewhere by beautiful. Related: Beauteously; beauteousness.
beautician (n.)
first recorded 1924, American English (the Cleveland, Ohio, telephone directory, to be precise), from beauty + ending as in technician. Beauty salon is from 1922, a substitution for prosaic beauty shop (1901).
beautification (n.)
1630s, from beauty + -fication.
beautiful (adj.)
mid-15c., from beauty + -ful. The beautiful people "the fashionable set" first attested 1964 in (where else?) "Vogue" (it also was the title of a 1941 play by U.S. dramatist William Saroyan). House Beautiful is from "Pilgrim's Progress," where it is a proper name of a place. Related: Beautifully.
beautify (v.)
mid-15c., "to make beautiful," from beauty + -fy. Intransitive sense, "to become beautiful," is recorded from 1590s. Related: Beautified; beautifying.
beauty (n.)
early 14c., "physical attractiveness," also "goodness, courtesy," from Anglo-French beute, Old French biauté "beauty, seductiveness, beautiful person" (12c., Modern French beauté), earlier beltet, from Vulgar Latin bellitatem (nominative bellitas) "state of being handsome," from Latin bellus "pretty, handsome, charming," in classical Latin used especially of women and children, or ironically or insultingly of men, perhaps from PIE *dw-en-elo-, diminutive of root *deu- "to do, perform, show favor, revere" (see bene-). Famously defined by Stendhal as la promesse de bonheur "the promise of happiness."
[I]t takes the one hundred men in ten million who understand beauty, which isn't imitation or an improvement on the beautiful as already understood by the common herd, twenty or thirty years to convince the twenty thousand next most sensitive souls after their own that this new beauty is truly beautiful. [Stendhal, "Life of Henry Brulard"]
Replaced Old English wlite. Concrete meaning "a beautiful woman" is first recorded late 14c. Beauty sleep "sleep before midnight" is attested by 1850. Beauty spot is from 1650s. Beauty parlor is from 1894.
The sudden death of a young woman a little over a week ago in a down-town "beauty parlor" has served to direct public attention to those institutions and their methods. In this case, it seems, the operator painted on or injected into the patron's facial blemish a 4-per-cent cocaine solution and then applied an electrode, the sponge of which was saturated with carbolized water. ["The Western Druggist," October 1894]
Beauté du diable (literally "devil's beauty") is used as a French phrase in English from 1825.
beaux arts (n.)
"the fine arts," 1821, from French; also in reference to Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and the widely imitated conventional type of art and architecture advocated there.
beaver (n.)
Old English beofor, befer (earlier bebr), from Proto-Germanic *bebruz (cognates: Old Saxon bibar, Old Norse bjorr, Middle Dutch and Dutch bever, Low German bever, Old High German bibar, German Biber), from PIE *bhebhrus, reduplication of root *bher- (3) "brown, bright" (cognates: Lithuanian bebrus, Czech bobr, Welsh befer; see bear (n.) for the likely reason for this). Gynecological sense ("female genitals, especially with a display of pubic hair") is 1927 British slang, transferred from earlier meaning "a bearded man" (1910), from the appearance of split beaver pelts.
bebop (n.)
1944, from bebop, rebop, bop, nonsense words in jazz lyrics, attested from at least 1928. The style is associated with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
becalm (v.)
1550s, from be- + calm. Related: Becalmed; becalming.
became
past tense of become (q.v.).
because (conj.)
c.1300, bi cause "by cause," modeled on French par cause. Originally a phrase, often followed by a subordinate clause introduced by that or why. One word from c.1400. As an adverb from late 14c. Clipped form cause attested in writing by mid-15c.
bechamel (n.)
1796, from French béchamel, named for Louis XIV's steward, Louis de Béchamel, marquis de Nointel (1630-1703), who perfected it. Gamillscheg identifies him as a great gourmet of the time ("eines bekannten Feinschmeckers des 17. Jhdts.").
bechance (v.)
1520s, from be- + chance. Related: Bechanced; bechancing.
beck (n.)
late 14c., "mute signal," from noun use of bekken (v.), variant of becnan "to beckon" (see beckon). Transferred sense of "slightest indication of will" is from late 15c.
beck (v.)
c.1300, shortening of beckon. (v.).