bespoke (adj.) Look up bespoke at
"custom or custom-made, made to order," of goods (as distinguished from ready-made), 1755, the same sense is found earlier in bespoken (c. 1600), past participle adjective from bespeak in its sense of "speak for, arrange beforehand," which is attested in bespeak from 1580s. Now usually of tailored suits.
bespread (v.) Look up bespread at
"to spread over, cover with," c. 1200, from be- + spread (v.).
besprinkle (v.) Look up besprinkle at
"to sprinkle over," mid-15c., from be- + sprinkle (v.). Related: Besprinkled; besprinkling.
Bessarabia Look up Bessarabia at
old name for the region of Eastern Europe that now mostly is the nation of Moldova, probably from Besarab, a dynastic name of Wallachian princes, said to be from Turkish basar. Related: Bessarabian.
Bessemer (adj.) Look up Bessemer at
by 1856 in reference to the process for decarbonizing and desiliconizing pig iron by passing air through the molten metal, named for engineer and inventor Sir Harry Bessemer (1813-1898) who invented it.
best (adj.) Look up best at
Old English beste, reduced by assimilation of -t- from earlier Old English betst "of the highest quality or standing, first, in the best manner." This originally was the superlative of bōt "remedy, reparation" (Middle English bote "advantage, help, profit"), a word now surviving in its simple form only in the expression to boot (see boot (n.2)). Its comparative, better, and superlative, best, have been transferred to good (and in some cases well).

Old English bōt is from Proto-Germanic root *bat-, with comparative *batizon and superlative *batistaz. The superlative form is the source also of Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Middle Dutch best, Old High German bezzist, German best, Old Norse beztr, Gothic batists. Also in Old English as an adverb, "in the most excellent manner."
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
[Burns, "To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785"]
From late Old English as "of greatest advantage, most suitable." Best-seller as short for "best-selling book" is from 1889, apparently originally in the publishing trade; best friend was in Chaucer (late 14c.). Best girl is first attested 1881, American English; best man is 1814, originally Scottish, replacing groomsman.
best (n.) Look up best at
c. 1200, "that which is best," from best (adj.). From c. 1300 as "all that one can do;" 1570s as "highest possible state." From 1790 as "best clothes." At best "in the utmost degree" is from early 14c. For the best "tending to the best results" is from late 14c. To make the best of "use to best advantage" is from 1620s; to get or have the best of "the advantage over" (in a contest, etc.) is from 1640s. To be able to do something with the best of them is recorded by 1748.
best (v.) Look up best at
"to get the better of, outdo, surpass," 1863, from best (adj.). Related: Bested; besting.
bestead (v.) Look up bestead at
1580s, "to help, support, prop," also "to profit, benefit," from be- + stead (v.); see stead.
bestest (adj.) Look up bestest at
jocular emphatic superlative of best (itself a superlative), attested from 1834.
bestial (adj.) Look up bestial at
late 14c., "belonging to a beast," c. 1400, "having the qualities of a beast," from Old French bestial (13c.) "relating to animals; beast-like, stupid, foolish, brutal" and directly from Latin bestialis "like a beast," from bestia (see beast). Sense of "below the dignity of a human" in English is from c. 1400, and in many cases does injustice to the beasts. When the beast of the Book of Revelations was meant, the adjectival form bestian (1650s) sometimes was used.
bestiality (n.) Look up bestiality at
late 14c., "the nature of beasts," from bestial + -ity. Meaning "indulgence in bestial instincts" is from 1650s; sense of "sexual activity with a beast" is from 1611 (KJV).
bestiary (n.) Look up bestiary at
"medieval treatise on beasts" usually with moralistic overtones, 1818, from Medieval Latin bestiarium "a menagerie," also "a book about animals," from bestia (see beast).

A Latin term for such works was liber de bestiis compositus. Roman bestiarius meant "a fighter against beasts in the public entertainments." Bestiarian (1882), modeled on humanitarian, was a word for "one who advocates kind treatment of animals," especially "anti-vivisectionist," but earlier bestiarianism (1864) had been used as the opposite of humanitarianism in reference to cruel and brutal policies.
bestill (v.) Look up bestill at
"to make still," 1770, from be- + still (adj.).
bestir (v.) Look up bestir at
Old English bestyrian "to heap up," from be- + stir. The original sense apparently is obsolete; the meaning "take brisk or vigorous action" is from c. 1300. Related: Bestirred; bestirring.
bestow (v.) Look up bestow at
early 14c., bistowen "give, confer" (alms, etc.), from be- + stowen "to place" (see stow). Related: Bestowed; bestowing; bestower.
bestowal (n.) Look up bestowal at
1773, from bestow + -al (2). Bestowment is from 1730.
bestrew (v.) Look up bestrew at
Old English bestreowian "besprinkle, scatter about;" see be- + strew (v.).
bestride (v.) Look up bestride at
Old English bestridan "to straddle the legs over, mount," from be- + stridan "to stride" (see stride (v.)). Compare Middle Dutch bestryden. Related: Bestrid; bestriding.
bet (n.) Look up bet at
1590s, "the mutual pledging of things of value to be won or lost based on some future event," appearing simultaneously with the verb, originally in the argot of petty criminals, a word of unknown origin. Perhaps a shortening of abet or else from obsolete beet "to make good" (related to better). The original notion is perhaps "to improve" a contest by wagering on it, or to encourage a contestant. Or perhaps the word is from the "bait" sense in abet. Meaning "that which is wagered" is from 1796.
bet (v.) Look up bet at
1590s, "pledge as a forfeit to another who makes a similar pledge in return," originally in the argot of petty criminals, a word of unknown origin; see bet (n.), which appeared about the same time. Intransitive sense of "lay a wager" is from c. 1600. Used since mid-19c. in various American English slang assertions (bet your life, 1848; bet your boots, 1856; you bet "be assured," 1857, identified in Century Dictionary as "originally California slang").
beta (n.) Look up beta at
second letter of the Greek alphabet, c. 1300, from Greek, from Hebrew/Phoenician beth (see alphabet); used to designate the second of many things. Beta radiation is from 1899 (Rutherford). Beta particle is attested from 1904.
betake (v.) Look up betake at
c. 1200, "to hand over," from be- + take (v.). From the beginning confused in form and sense with the older beteach. From c. 1400 in the etymologically proper sense "to take, accept." Its reflexive sense "take oneself" (to) emerged mid-15c. Related: Betook; betaken.
Betamax (n.) Look up Betamax at
1975, proprietary name (Sony), from Japanese beta-beta "all over" + max, from English maximum.
betcha Look up betcha at
representing casual pronunciation of bet you, attested by 1904 (see bet (v.)).
bete noire (n.) Look up bete noire at
"person or thing regarded with especial aversion," 1844, from French bête noire, literally "the black beast." For bête see beast; noire is from Latin niger (see Negro).
beteach (v.) Look up beteach at
Old English betæcan "give up to, impart, deliver; appoint, set apart, dedicate," from be- + teach (v.). Form and sense confused with betake. Meaning "impart, teach" is from c. 1300; the word was obsolete or archaic from 16c. Related: Betaught; beteaching.
betel (n.) Look up betel at
1550s, name of a creeping or climbing plant of the East Indies, also of its leaf (1580s), which is chewed, probably via Portuguese betel, from Malayalam (Dravidian) vettila, from veru ila "simple leaf."
Betelgeuse Look up Betelgeuse at
alpha Orionis, bright reddish star in the right shoulder of Orion, 1515, from Arabic Ibt al Jauzah, traditionally said to mean "the Armpit of the Central One" (with this arm he holds his club aloft), but perhaps more accurately "Hand of al-Jauza (Orion)." Intermediary forms include Bed Elgueze, Beit Algueze.
Bethany Look up Bethany at
Biblical village, its name in Hebrew or Aramaic (Semitic) is literally "house of poverty," from bet "house of" (construct state of bayit "house") + 'anya "poverty."
bethel (n.) Look up bethel at
1610s, "a place where God is worshipped," from Hebrew beth El "house of God," from beth, construct state of bayit "house" + El "God." Popular as a name for religious meeting houses among some Protestant denominations and also of chapels for sailors. Beth also was the name of the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, so called for its shape, and was borrowed into Greek as beta.
Bethesda Look up Bethesda at
1857, name of a pool in Jerusalem (John v.2), from Greek Bethesda, from Aramaic (Semitic) beth hesda "house of mercy," or perhaps "place of flowing water." Popular among some Protestant denominations as a name for religious meeting houses.
bethink (v.) Look up bethink at
reflexive verb, Old English beþencan "to consider, remember, take thought for, reflect," from be- + þencan "to think" (see think). Related: Bethought.
Bethlehem Look up Bethlehem at
the name probably means "House of Lahmu and Lahamu," a pair of Mesopotamian agricultural deities.
bethump (v.) Look up bethump at
"to beat soundly," 1590s, from be- + thump. Related: Bethumped; bethumping.
betide (v.) Look up betide at
late 12c., "to happen, come to pass," from be- + tiden "to happen" (see tide (v.)). Transitive sense "happen to (someone)" is from early 13c. Surviving, if at all, in the expression woe betide! (late 14c.).
betimes (adv.) Look up betimes at
early 14c., "at an early period;" late 14c., "seasonably, before it is too late," from betime (c. 1300, from be- + time (n.)). With adverbial genitive -s.
betoken (v.) Look up betoken at
late Old English betacnian "to denote, to mean, signify; be a visible sign or emblem of," from be- + Old English tacnian "to signify," from tacn "sign" (see token). From c. 1200 as "to augur, presage, portend," also "be or give evidence of." Related: Betokened; betokening.
betray (v.) Look up betray at
early 13c., "prove false, violate by unfaithfulness;" c. 1300, bitrayen, "deliver or expose to the power of an enemy by treachery," also "mislead, deceive, delude," from be- + obsolete Middle English tray, from Old French traine "betrayal, deception, deceit," from trair (Modern French trahir) "betray, deceive," from Latin tradere "hand over," from trans "across" (see trans-) + dare "to give" (from PIE root *do- "to give").

From 1580s as "unintentionally show a true character;" 1690s as "indicate what is not obvious." From 1735 as "reveal or disclose in violation of confidence." Sometimes in Middle English also bitraish, betrash, from the French present participle stem. Related: Betrayed; betraying.
betrayal (n.) Look up betrayal at
1798, from betray + -al (2). Earlier in the same sense were betrayment (1540s), betraying (late 14c.).
betrayer (n.) Look up betrayer at
1520s, agent noun from betray (v.).
betroth (v.) Look up betroth at
c. 1300, betrouthen, "to promise to marry (a woman)," from be-, here probably with a sense of "thoroughly," + Middle English treowðe "truth," from Old English treowðe "truth, a pledge" (see truth). From 1560s as "contract to give (a woman) in marriage to another, affiance." Related: Betrothed; betrothing.
betrothal (n.) Look up betrothal at
"act of betrothing," 1825, from betroth + -al (2). Earlier in same sense were betrothment (1580s), betrothing (14c.).
betrothed (adj.) Look up betrothed at
1530s, past participle adjective from betroth (v.). As a noun, in use by 1580s.
Betsy Look up Betsy at
fem. pet name, a diminutive of Bet, itself short for Elizabet or Elizabeth. Betsy or Bessy (a variant form) as the typical pet-name for a favorite firearm is attested in American English by 1856 (compare Brown Bess, by 1785, British army slang for the old flintlock musket).
better (adj., adv.) Look up better at
Old English bettra, earlier betera "of superior quality or excellence," from Proto-Germanic *batizo-, from PIE *bhad- "good;" for etymology and evolution, see best. Cognate words also have become the comparative adjective of good in the older Germanic languages (Old Frisian betera, Old Saxon betiro, Old Norse betr, Danish bedre, Old High German bezziro, German besser, Gothic batiza). All are comparatives of a positive (Proto-Germanic *bat) which is not in use.

In Middle English the adverbial form commonly was bet, sometimes also was an adjective; bet was displaced by c. 1600. From late Old English as "improved in health, more healthy" (adv.); from late 12c. as "more useful or desirable." Better half "wife" is first attested 1570s.
better (n.1) Look up better at
late 12c., "that which is better," from better (adj.). Specific meaning "one's superior" is from early 14c. The better "improvement" (as in for the better) is from 1690s. To get the better of someone "obtain mastery or victory over" is from 1650s, from better in a sense of "superiority, mastery," which is recorded from mid-15c. Related: Betters.
better (n.2) Look up better at
"one who lays wagers;" see bettor.
better (v.) Look up better at
Old English *beterian "improve, amend, make better," from Proto-Germanic *batizojan (source also of Old Frisian beteria, Dutch beteren, Old Norse betra, Old High German baziron, German bessern), from *batizo- (see better (adj.)). Meaning "exceed, surpass, outdo" is from 1540s. Related: Bettered; bettering.
betterment (n.) Look up betterment at
"improvement," 1590s, from better (v.) + -ment.