Etymology
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beat (v.)

Old English beatan "inflict blows on, strike repeatedly, thrash" (class VII strong verb; past tense beot, past participle beaten), from Proto-Germanic *bautan (source also of Old Norse bauta, Old High German bozan "to beat"), from PIE root *bhau- "to strike."

Past tense beat is from c. 1500, probably not from Old English but a shortening of Middle English beted. Of the heart, c. 1200, from notion of it striking against the breast.

Meaning "to overcome in a contest" is from 1610s (hence the sense of "legally avoid, escape" in beat the charges, etc., attested from c. 1920 in underworld slang). Meaning "be too difficult for" intellectually or physically (by 1870) is behind the shrug-phrase beats me.

Meaning "strike cover to rouse or drive game" (c. 1400) is source of beat around (or about) the bush (1570s), the metaphoric sense of which has shifted from "make preliminary motions" to "avoid, evade." Nautical sense of "make progress against the wind by means of alternate tacks" is from 1670s. Command beat it "go away" first recorded 1906 (though "action of feet upon the ground" was a sense of Old English betan); it is attested in 1903 as newsboy slang for "travel without paying by riding on the outside of a train."

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 hand 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 by exertion," is by 1905, American English. For beat generation see beatnik.

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Definitions of beat
1
beat (v.)
come out better in a competition, race, or conflict;
Agassi beat Becker in the tennis championship
We beat the competition
Synonyms: beat out / crush / shell / trounce / vanquish
beat (v.)
give a beating to; subject to a beating, either as a punishment or as an act of aggression;
Thugs beat him up when he walked down the street late at night
The teacher used to beat the students
Synonyms: beat up / work over
beat (v.)
hit repeatedly;
beat the table with his shoe
beat on the door
beat (v.)
move rhythmically;
Her heart was beating fast
Synonyms: pound / thump
beat (v.)
shape by beating;
beat swords into ploughshares
beat (v.)
make a rhythmic sound;
The drums beat all night
Synonyms: drum / thrum
beat (v.)
glare or strike with great intensity;
The sun was beating down on us
beat (v.)
move with a thrashing motion;
The eagle beat its wings and soared high into the sky
Synonyms: flap
beat (v.)
sail with much tacking or with difficulty;
The boat beat in the strong wind
beat (v.)
stir vigorously;
beat the cream
beat the egg whites
Synonyms: scramble
beat (v.)
strike (a part of one's own body) repeatedly, as in great emotion or in accompaniment to music;
beat one's breast
beat one's foot rhythmically
beat (v.)
be superior;
Reading beats watching television
This sure beats work!
beat (v.)
avoid paying;
beat the subway fare
Synonyms: bunk
beat (v.)
make a sound like a clock or a timer;
the grandfather clock beat midnight
Synonyms: tick / ticktock / ticktack
beat (v.)
move with a flapping motion;
Synonyms: flap
beat (v.)
indicate by beating, as with the fingers or drumsticks;
beat (v.)
move with or as if with a regular alternating motion;
Synonyms: pulsate / quiver
beat (v.)
make by pounding or trampling;
beat a path through the forest
beat (v.)
produce a rhythm by striking repeatedly;
beat the drum
beat (v.)
strike (water or bushes) repeatedly to rouse animals for hunting;
beat (v.)
beat through cleverness and wit;
I beat the traffic
beat (v.)
be a mystery or bewildering to;
This beats me!
beat (v.)
wear out completely;
I'm beat
Synonyms: exhaust / wash up / tucker / tucker out
2
beat (n.)
a regular route for a sentry or policeman;
in the old days a policeman walked a beat and knew all his people by name
Synonyms: round
beat (n.)
the rhythmic contraction and expansion of the arteries with each beat of the heart;
he could feel the beat of her heart
Synonyms: pulse / pulsation / heartbeat
beat (n.)
the basic rhythmic unit in a piece of music;
the conductor set the beat
Synonyms: rhythm / musical rhythm
beat (n.)
a single pulsation of an oscillation produced by adding two waves of different frequencies; has a frequency equal to the difference between the two oscillations;
beat (n.)
a member of the beat generation; a nonconformist in dress and behavior;
Synonyms: beatnik
beat (n.)
the sound of stroke or blow;
he heard the beat of a drum
beat (n.)
(prosody) the accent in a metrical foot of verse;
Synonyms: meter / metre / measure / cadence
beat (n.)
a regular rate of repetition;
the cox raised the beat
beat (n.)
a stroke or blow;
the signal was two beats on the steam pipe
beat (n.)
the act of beating to windward; sailing as close as possible to the direction from which the wind is blowing;
3
beat (adj.)
very tired;
so beat I could flop down and go to sleep anywhere
Synonyms: all in / bushed / dead
From wordnet.princeton.edu