beetle-browed (adj.) Look up beetle-browed at
mid-14c.; see beetle (v.).
beeves (n.) Look up beeves at
original plural of beef (n.) in the animal sense (compare boevz, plural of Old French buef), now only in restricted use.
befall (v.) Look up befall at
Old English befeallan "to deprive of; fall to, occur to, be assigned to," from be- "by, about" + feallan (see fall). Compare Old Frisian bifalla, Old Saxon, Old High German bifallan, German befallen. Intransitive sense of "to happen, come to pass" is from c. 1300. Related: Befell; befalling.
befit (v.) Look up befit at
"suit, be suitable to," mid-15c., from be- + fit (v.). Related: Befitted; befitting.
befitting (adj.) Look up befitting at
"of a suitable kind or character, proper, becoming," 1560s, present participle adjective from befit (q.v.). Related: Befittingly.
befog (v.) Look up befog at
c. 1600, from be- + fog. Related: Befogged; befogging.
befool (v.) Look up befool at
"make a fool of," late 14c., from be- + fool (n.). Related: Befooled; befooling.
before (adv., prep.) Look up before at
Old English beforan "in front of, in former times; in the presence of, in front of in time or position," from Proto-Germanic *bi- "by" (see by) + *forana "from the front," adverbial derivative of *fora (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of, before"). Compare Old Frisian bifara, Old Saxon biforan, Old High German bifora, German bevor.

As a conjunction, "previous to the time when," from c. 1200. Contrasting before and after in illustrations is from Hogarth (1768). Before the mast in old sailing ship jargon in reference to the life of a common sailor is from the place of their berths, in front of the fore-mast.
beforehand (adv.) Look up beforehand at
also before-hand, "in anticipation," early 13c., from before + hand, which here is of uncertain signification, unless the original notion is payment in advance or something done before another's hand does it. Hyphenated from 18c.; one word from 19c.
beforetime (adv.) Look up beforetime at
"in former times," c. 1300, from before + time (n.). Related: Beforetimes.
befoul (v.) Look up befoul at
"make foul, cover with filth," from Old English befylan; see be- + foul (v.). Related: Befouled; befouling.
befriend (v.) Look up befriend at
"act as a friend to," 1550s, from be- + friend (n.). Related: Befriended; befriending.
befuddle (v.) Look up befuddle at
1873, "confuse," originally "to confuse with strong drink or opium" (by 1832), from be- + fuddle. An earlier word in the same sense was begunk (1725). Related: Befuddled; befuddling.
beg (v.) Look up beg at
"to ask alms," especially to do so habitually as one's way of life, c. 1200, of uncertain origin. Perhaps from the rare Old English bedecian "to beg," from Proto-Germanic *beth-. Or from Anglo-French begger, a back-formation from Old French noun begart (see beggar (n.)) and ultimately from Beguine, which OED considers "perhaps the most likely derivation." The Old English word for "beg" was wædlian, from wædl "poverty." Related: Begged; begging.

Meaning "ask for" (a favor, etc.) is by 1520s. As a courteous mode of asking (beg pardon, etc.), attested by c. 1600. Of dogs, 1762. To beg the question (1580s) translates Latin petitio principii, and means "to assume something that hasn't been proven as a basis of one's argument," thus "asking" one's opponent to give something unearned, though more of the nature of taking it for granted without warrant. To beg off (something) "obtain release from by entreaty" is from 1741.
began (v.) Look up began at
past tense of begin.
begat (v.) Look up begat at
archaic past tense of beget.
beget (v.) Look up beget at
Old English begietan "to get by effort, find, acquire, attain, seize" (class V strong verb, past tense begeat, past participle begeaton), from be- + get (v.). Sense of "to procreate" is from c. 1200, generally used of the father only. Similar formation in Old Saxon bigitan, Old High German pigezzan, Gothic bigitan "to get, obtain." Related: Begot; begotten.
begetter (n.) Look up begetter at
"one who produces or creates," mid-15c., agent noun from beget.
beggar (n.) Look up beggar at
"one who asks alms," especially as a way of life, c. 1200, from Old French begart, "a member of the Beghards," a mendicant order of lay brothers in the Low Countries, from Middle Dutch beggaert "mendicant," a word of uncertain origin, with pejorative suffix (see -ard). The common noun is perhaps from the proper name; compare Beguine. Early folk etymology connected the English word with bag, but this is now dismissed (see OED).

From mid-14c. as "one who is indigent" (whether begging or not). From c. 1300 as "mean or low person;" as a familiar term for "a fellow, man" by 1833. 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." Proverbial beggers should be no choosers is in Heywood (1562).
beggar (v.) Look up beggar at
"reduce to poverty," mid-15c., from beggar (n.). From c. 1600 as "exceed the means of," hence "to outdo." Related: Beggared; beggaring.
beggarly (adv.) Look up beggarly at
"in the manner of a beggar," c. 1400, from beggar (n.) + -ly (2).
beggarly (adj.) Look up beggarly at
"in an indigent condition," 1520s, from beggar (n.) + -ly (1).
beggary (n.) Look up beggary at
late 14c., "practice of begging, mendicancy; poverty," from beggar + -y (2).
begging (n.) Look up begging at
"act or habit of asking for alms, mendicancy, a beggar's way of life," late 14c., verbal noun from beg (v.). To go begging "find no one to fill or take" is from 1590s. Related: Beggingly.
begin (v.) Look up begin at
Old English beginnan "to attempt, undertake," a rare word beside the more usual form onginnan (class III strong verb; past tense ongann, past participle ongunnen); from be- + West Germanic *ginnan, which is 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.

From late 12c. as "originate, be the originator of;" from c. 1200 as "take the first step in, start to deal with." Intransitive sense "come into existence" is from mid-13c.
beginner (n.) Look up beginner at
early 14c., "founder, originator," 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;" c. 1200, "initial stage or first part," verbal noun 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 "to gird, clothe; surround, fortify;" see be- + gird (v.). Related: Begirt.
begone (interj.) Look up begone at
"go away! depart!" late 14c., contracted from imperative verbal phrase be gone!; see be + gone.
begonia (n.) Look up begonia at
showy flowering plant native to warm regions, 1751, from French begonia (1706), named by French botanist Charles Plumier for Michel Bégon (1638-1710), French governor of Santo Domingo (Haiti) and patron of botany, + abstract noun ending -ia.
begorra (interj.) Look up begorra at
1839, antiquated Anglo-Irish form of expletive By God.
begotten (adj.) Look up begotten at
"procreated," late 14c., past participle adjective from beget.
begrime (v.) Look up begrime at
"cover with dirt," 1530s, from be- + grime (n.). Related: Begrimed.
begrudge (v.) Look up begrudge at
late 14c., bigrucchen, "grumble over, find fault, show dissatisfaction," especially "envy the possession of," from be- + Middle English grucchen "to murmur, find fault with, be angry" (see grudge). Related: Begrudged; begrudging; begrudgingly.
beguile (v.) Look up beguile at
"delude by artifice," early 13c., from be- + guile (v.). Meaning "entertain with passtimes" is by 1580s (compare the sense evolution of amuse). Related: Beguiled; beguiling.
beguiling (adj.) Look up beguiling at
c. 1400, present participle adjective from beguile. Related: Beguilingly.
Beguine (n.) Look up Beguine at
late 15c., from French béguine (13c.), Medieval Latin beguina, "a member of a women's spiritual order professing poverty and self-denial, 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. French bègue is of unknown origin. Related: Beguinage.

The women's order, though sometimes persecuted, generally preserved its good reputation, but 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. The male order was condemned by the Church early 14c. and vanished by mid-16c.

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 as the above. Compare English biggin "child's cap" (1520s), from the French word.
begun (v.) Look up begun at
past participle of begin.
behalf (n.) Look up behalf at
c. 1300, behalve (with dative suffix), "for the sake or benefit, advantage, interest" (of someone), from Old English (him) be healfe "by (his) side," and, incorrectly, from on (his) healfe "on (his) side," from healfe "side" (see half). The word was confused with Middle English behalve, behalves (adv. and prep.) "by the side of, near."
behave (v.) Look up behave at
early 15c., reflexive, "conduct or comport" (oneself, in a specified manner), 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." In early modern English it also could be transitive, "to govern, manage, conduct." Related: Behaved; behaving.
behavior (n.) Look up behavior at
"manner of behaving (whether good or bad), conduct, manners," 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
1913, coined 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
"kill by decapitation," Old English beheafdian, from be-, here with privative force, + heafod "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head"). Compare German enthaupten, Dutch onthoofden. 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. Used in modern English for any huge beast.
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
c. 1200, from 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., prep.) Look up behind at
Old English behindan "at the back of, after," from bi "by" (see by) + hindan "from behind" (see hind (adj.)). The prepositional sense emerged in Old English. Figurative sense "not so far advanced, not on equality with" is from c. 1200. Euphemistic noun meaning "backside of a person" is from 1786. To do something behind (someone's) back "clandestinely" is from late 14c. Phrase behind the times is by 1826. Behind the scenes (1711) is from the theater; figurative sense attested by 1779.