Entries linking to befit
word-forming element of verbs and nouns from verbs, with a wide range of meaning: "about, around; thoroughly, completely; to make, cause, seem; to provide with; at, on, to, for;" from Old English be- "about, around, on all sides" (the unstressed form of bi "by;" see by (prep.)). The form has remained by- in stressed positions and in some more modern formations (bylaw, bygones, bystander).
The Old English prefix also was used to make transitive verbs and as a privative prefix (as in behead). The sense "on all sides, all about" naturally grew to include intensive uses (as in bespatter "spatter about," therefore "spatter very much," besprinkle, etc.). Be- also can be causative, or have just about any sense required. The prefix was productive 16c.-17c. in forming useful words, many of which have not survived, such as bethwack "to thrash soundly" (1550s) and betongue "to assail in speech, to scold" (1630s).
c. 1400, "to marshal or deploy (troops);" early 15c. as "be fitting or proper, be suitable," from fit (adj.) and perhaps in part from Scandinavian (compare Old Norse fitja "knit"). From 1580s as "be the right shape." Transitive sense of "provide with what is suitable" is from 1590s; that of "make fit or suitable, bring into corresponding form or condition" is from c. 1600. Related: Fitted; fitting. Fitted sheets is attested from 1948.
updated on April 26, 2017