begetter (n.) Look up begetter at
mid-15c., agent noun from beget.
beggar (n.) Look up beggar at
c. 1200, from Old French begart, originally a member of the Beghards, lay brothers of mendicants in the Low Countries, from Middle Dutch beggaert "mendicant," of uncertain origin, with pejorative suffix (see -ard). Compare Beguine. Early folk etymology connected the English word with bag. Form with -ar attested from 14c., but begger was more usual 15c.-17c. The feminine form beggestere is attested as a surname from c. 1300. Beggar's velvet was an old name for "dust bunnies." "Beggers should be no choosers" is in Heywood (1562).
beggar (v.) Look up beggar at
"reduce to poverty," mid-15c., from beggar (n.). Related: Beggared; beggaring. Figurative use by 1640s.
beggarly (adj.) Look up beggarly at
1520s, from beggar (n.) + -ly (1).
beggary (n.) Look up beggary at
late 14c.; see beg + -ary.
begin (v.) Look up begin at
Old English beginnan "to begin, attempt, undertake," a rare word beside the more usual form onginnan (class III strong verb; past tense ongann, past participle ongunnen); from bi- (see be-) + West Germanic *ginnan, of obscure meaning and found only in compounds, perhaps "to open, open up" (compare Old High German in-ginnan "to cut open, open up," also "begin, undertake"), with sense evolution from "open" to "begin." Cognates elsewhere in Germanic include Old Frisian biginna "to begin," Middle Dutch beghinnen, Old High German beginnan, German beginnen, Old Frisian bijenna "to begin," Gothic duginnan.
beginner (n.) Look up beginner at
early 14c., "founder," agent noun from begin. Meaning "novice" is from late 15c. Beginner's luck is from 1897.
beginning (n.) Look up beginning at
late 12c., "time when something begins," from begin. Meaning "act of starting something" is from early 13c. The Old English word was fruma (see foremost).
begird (v.) Look up begird at
Old English begyrdan; see be- + gird (v.).
begone (v.) Look up begone at
late 14c., contracted from be (imperative) + gone.
begonia (n.) Look up begonia at
1751, from French begonia (1706), named by Plumier for Michel Bégon (1638-1710), French governor of Santo Domingo (Haiti) and patron of botany, + abstract noun ending -ia.
begorra Look up begorra at
1839, antiquated Anglo-Irish form of expletive By God.
begotten (adj.) Look up begotten at
late 14c., past participle adjective from beget.
begrime (v.) Look up begrime at
1530s, from be- + grime (n.). Related: Begrimed.
begrudge (v.) Look up begrudge at
mid-14c., from be- + Middle English grucchen "to murmur" (see grudge). Related: Begrudged; begrudging; begrudgingly.
beguile (v.) Look up beguile at
early 13c., from be- + guile (v.). Related: Beguiled; beguiling.
beguiling (adj.) Look up beguiling at
c. 1400, present participle adjective from beguile.
Beguine (n.) Look up Beguine at
late 15c., from French béguine (13c.), Medieval Latin beguina, a member of a women's spiritual order said to have been founded c.1180 in Liege in the Low Countries. They are said to take their name from the surname of Lambert le Bègue "Lambert the Stammerer," a Liege priest who was instrumental in their founding, and it's likely the word was pejorative at first.

The order generally preserved its reputation, though it quickly drew imposters who did not; nonetheless it eventually was condemned as heretical. A male order, called Beghards founded communities by the 1220s in imitation of them, but they soon degenerated (compare Old French beguin "(male) Beguin," also "hypocrite") and wandered begging in the guise of religion; they likely were the source of the words beg and beggar, though there is disagreement over whether Beghard produced Middle Dutch beggaert "mendicant" or was produced by it.

Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" (1935) refers to a kind of popular dance of West Indian origin, from French colloquial béguin "an infatuation, boyfriend, girlfriend," earlier "child's bonnet," and before that "nun's headdress" (14c.), from Middle Dutch beggaert, ultimately the same word.
begun (v.) Look up begun at
past participle of begin.
behalf (n.) Look up behalf at
c. 1300, behalve (with dative suffix), from Old English (him) be healfe "by (his) side," and on (his) healfe "on (his) side," from healfe "side" (see half).
behave (v.) Look up behave at
early 15c., from be- intensive prefix + have in sense of "to have or bear (oneself) in a particular way, comport" (compare German sich behaben, French se porter). Cognate Old English compound behabban meant "to contain," and alternatively the modern sense of behave might have evolved from behabban via a notion of "self-restraint." Related: Behaved; behaving.
behavior (n.) Look up behavior at
late 15c., essentially from behave, but with ending from Middle English havour "possession," a word altered (by influence of have) from aver, noun use of Old French verb aveir "to have."
behavioral (adj.) Look up behavioral at
1927, in psychology, from behavior + -al (1).
behaviorism (n.) Look up behaviorism at
coined 1913 by U.S. psychologist John B. Watson (1878-1958) from behavior + -ism. Behaviorist is from the same time.
behaviour (n.) Look up behaviour at
chiefly British English spelling of behavior; for suffix, see -or.
behavioural (adj.) Look up behavioural at
chiefly British English spelling of behavioral (q.v.); for spelling, see -or.
behead (v.) Look up behead at
Old English beheafdian, from be-, here with privative force, + heafod (see head (n.)). Related: Beheaded; beheading.
beheld (v.) Look up beheld at
past tense and past participle of behold.
behemoth (n.) Look up behemoth at
late 14c., huge biblical beast (Job xl.15), from Latin behemoth, from Hebrew b'hemoth, usually taken as plural of intensity of b'hemah "beast." But the Hebrew word is perhaps a folk etymology of Egyptian pehemau, literally "water-ox," the name for the hippopotamus.
Long before Jumbo was dreamed of, a hippo was exhibited by George K. Bailey, who invented the tank on wheels now used so generally in the circuses. The beast was advertised as "the blood sweating Behemoth of Holy Writ," and he made several men rich. [Isaac F. Marcosson, "Sawdust and Gold Dust," in "The Bookman," June 1910]
behest (n.) Look up behest at
Old English behæs "a vow," perhaps from behatan "to promise" (from be- + hatan "command, call;" see cite) and confused with obsolete hest "command," which may account for the unetymological -t as well as the Middle English shift in meaning to "command, injunction" (late 12c.).
behind (adv.) Look up behind at
Old English behindan "behind, after," from bi "by" + hindan "from behind" (see hind (adj.)). The prepositional sense emerged in Old English. Euphemistic noun meaning "backside of a person" is from 1786. Phrase behind the times is from 1905. Behind the scenes (1711) is from the theater; figurative sense attested by 1779.
behindhand (adv., adj.) Look up behindhand at
1520s, from behind + -hand, probably on model of beforehand.
behold (v.) Look up behold at
Old English bihaldan (West Saxon behealdan) "give regard to, hold in view," also "to keep hold of, to belong to," from be- + haldan, healdan (see hold). Related: Beheld; beholding. A common West Germanic compound, compare Old Saxon bihaldan "hold, keep," Old Frisian bihalda, Old High German bihaltan, German behalten, but "[t]he application to watching, looking, is confined to English" [OED].
beholden (adj.) Look up beholden at
"under obligation," mid-14c., originally past participle of behold (and preserving the original past participle of hold), but a sense directly related to this usage is not recorded among the many and varied meanings attested for behold.
beholder (n.) Look up beholder at
late 14c., agent noun from behold.
behoof (n.) Look up behoof at
c. 1200, "use, benefit, advantage;" Old English had bihoflic "useful," implying *bihof "advantage, utility;" from Proto-Germanic *bi-hof "that which binds, requirement, obligation" (source also of Old Frisian bihof "advantage," Dutch behoef, Middle High German bihuof "useful thing," German Behuf "benefit, use, advantage"). In the common Germanic compound, the first element, likely intensive, is cognate with be- and the second with Old English hof, past tense of hebban "to raise" (see heave (v.)). The original sense is perhaps, then, "taking up (for oneself)."
behoove (v.) Look up behoove at
Old English behofian "to have need of, have use for," verbal form of the ancient compound word represented by behoof (q.v.).
Historically, it rimes with move, prove, but being now mainly a literary word, it is generally made to rime with rove, grove, by those who know it only in books. [OED]
behove Look up behove at
chiefly British English spelling of behoove.
beige (n.) Look up beige at
1858, "fine woolen fabric," from dialectal French beige "yellowish-gray, brownish-gray," from Old French bege "the natural color of wool and cotton; raw, not dyed" (13c.), of obscure origin. According to Gamillscheg, the French word was especially associated with the Burgundy and Franche-Comté regions. As a shade of color, it is attested from 1879. As an adjective by 1879.
beignet (n.) Look up beignet at
"fritter," 1835, from French beignet "fritter, eggroll, doughnut" (14c.), from Old French buigne "bump, lump," from Frankish or some other Germanic source (compare Middle High German bunge "clod, lump"), or from Gaulish *bunia (compare Gaelic bonnach).
Beijing Look up Beijing at
Chinese capital, from bei "north" + jing "capital" (as opposed to Nanking, literally "southern capital").
being (n.) Look up being at
c. 1300, "condition, state, circumstances; presence, fact of existing," early 14c., existence," from be + -ing. Sense of "that which physically exists, person or thing" (as in human being) is from late 14c.
Beirut Look up Beirut at
Lebanese capital, from Hebrew, literally "the wells," from be'erot, plural of be'er "well."
bejesus Look up bejesus at
mild expletive, 1908, perhaps from by Jesus. To beat the bejesus out of someone is from 1934.
bejewel (v.) Look up bejewel at
1550s, from be- + jewel. Related: Bejeweled.
beknow (v.) Look up beknow at
c. 1300, "to become acquainted with; to be aware or conscious of," from be- + know (v.). Related: Beknown; beknowing.
Bel Look up Bel at
heaven-and-earth god of Babylonian religion, from Akkadian Belu, literally "lord, owner, master," cognate with Hebrew ba'al.
bel (adj.) Look up bel at
"beautiful," early 14c., from Old French bel, belle "beautiful, fair, fine" (see belle). "Naturalized in ME.; but after 1600 consciously French" [OED].
bel (n.) Look up bel at
unit of power level in measuring sound, 1929, named for Scottish-born telephone pioneer Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922).
bel canto Look up bel canto at
1894, Italian, literally "fine song."