Entries linking to beseem
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. 1200, impersonal, hit semeth (it seems), "it appears (that something is so);" also with adjectives or phrases, "to appear to be (in some condition), have or present an appearance of being," from Old Norse soema "to honor; to put up with; to conform to (the world, etc.)," a verb derived from the adjective soemr "fitting."
This is reconstructed to be from Proto-Germanic *somiz (source also of Old English som "agreement, reconciliation," seman "to conciliate," source of Middle English semen "to settle a dispute," literally "to make one;" Old Danish söme "to be proper or seemly"), from PIE *somi-, suffixed form of root *sem- (1) "one; as one, together with" (also compare same).
With other verbs (seem to be, etc.) from c. 1200. Sense of "appear to oneself, think oneself" is from 1630s. Also in Middle English "to present oneself, appear; be visible, be apparent" (late 14c.), hence, of a fact, etc., "be evident, apparent, or obvious." The sense of "be fitting or appropriate, be expedient" (c. 1300) is the etymological one, but it is obsolete except in derived seemly, unseemly. Related: Seemed; seeming.
updated on May 21, 2017