bedeck (v.) Look up bedeck at
"to adorn," 1560s, from be- + deck (v.). Related: Bedecked; bedecking.
bedevil (v.) Look up bedevil at
1768, "to treat diabolically, abuse," from be- + verbal use of devil (q.v.). Meaning "to mischievously confuse" is from 1755; that of "to drive frantic" is from 1823. Related: Bedeviled (1570s in a literal sense, "possessed"); bedeviling.
bedevilment (n.) Look up bedevilment at
1825, from bedevil + -ment.
bedfast (adj.) Look up bedfast at
"bedridden," 1630s, from bed (n.) + fast (adj.).
bedfellow (n.) Look up bedfellow at
"close friend, roommate, one who shares a bed with another," mid-15c., from bed (n.) + fellow (n.). Also (late 15c) "concubine." Earlier in the "close companion" sense was bed-fere (early 14c.). Old English had simply bedda. Bedsister "husband's concubine" is recorded in Middle English (c. 1300).
bedight (v.) Look up bedight at
"equip, furnish" (archaic), c. 1400, from be- + dight (q.v.). Related: Bedighted; bedighting.
bedim (v.) Look up bedim at
"make dim, obscure, darken," 1560s, from be- + dim. Related: Bedimmed; bedimming.
bedizen (v.) Look up bedizen at
"deck, dress up" (especially with tawdry or vulgar finery), 1660s, from be- + dizen "to dress" (1610s), especially, from late 18c., "to dress finely, adorn," originally "to dress (a distaff) for spinning" (1520s), and evidently the verbal form of the first element in distaff.
It is remarkable that neither the vb., nor the sb. as a separate word, has been found in OE. or ME., and that on the other hand no vb. corresponding to dizen is known in L.G. or Du. [OED]
bedlam (n.) Look up bedlam at
"scene of mad confusion," 1660s, from colloquial pronunciation of "Hospital of Saint Mary of Bethlehem" in London, founded 1247 as a priory, mentioned as a hospital 1330 and as a lunatic hospital 1402; it was converted to a civic lunatic asylum on dissolution of the monasteries in 1547. It was spelled Bedlem in a will from 1418, and Betleem is recorded as a spelling of Bethlehem in Judea from 971.
Bedlamite (n.) Look up Bedlamite at
"insane person," 1620s, from bedlam (q.v.) + -ite (1).
Bedouin (n.) Look up Bedouin at
"an Arab of the desert, one of the tribes of nomadic Arabs," c. 1400, from Old French bedüin (12c., Modern French bédouin), from colloquial Arabic badawin "desert-dwellers," plural of badawi, from badw "desert, camp." The Arabic plural suffix was mistaken for part of the word. A word from the Crusades, it probably was lost in English and then reborrowed from French c. 1600. As an adjective from 1844.
bedpan (n.) Look up bedpan at
also bed-pan, 1580s, "pan for warming beds," from bed (n.) + pan (n.). From 1670s as a utensil for bodily functions of persons confined in bed.
bedpost (n.) Look up bedpost at
also bed-post, "post forming an angle of a bed frame," 1590s, from bed (n.) + post (n.1). Formerly they were made high to support a canopy and rods for a curtain.
bedraggle (v.) Look up bedraggle at
"to soil or wet by dragging in dirt or mud or from being rained upon," 1727, from be- + draggle, frequentative of drag (v.). Also in a similar sense were bedrabble (mid-15c.), bedaggle (1570s).
bedraggled (adj.) Look up bedraggled at
1727, past participle adjective from bedraggle.
bedridden (adj.) Look up bedridden at
also bed-ridden, "confined to bed by age, infirmity, or sickness," mid-14c., from late Old English bæddrædæn "bedridden," adjective from bedreda "bedridden (man)," literally "bedrider," from bed + rida "rider" (see ride (v.)). Originally a noun, it became an adjective and acquired an -en on the analogy of past participle adjectives from strong verbs such as ride.
bedrock (n.) Look up bedrock at
also bed-rock, in geology, "solid rock lying under soil or gravel," 1850, from bed (n.) + rock (n.). Figurative use by 1869; as an adjective by 1881.
bedroom (n.) Look up bedroom at
also bed-room, "room intended to contain a bed," 1610s, from bed (n.) + room (n.). Used by Shakespeare in a sense "sleeping space, room in a bed" (1580s). Replaced earlier bedchamber (late 14c.). Old English had bedbur, bedcofa. First record of slang bedroom eyes is from 1901.
bedside (n.) Look up bedside at
"position by a bed," usually in reference to attendance on one confined in bed, mid-15c., bedsyde, from late 14c. as two words, beddes side, from genitive of bed (n.) + side (n.). Bedside manner attested from 1848.
bedspread (n.) Look up bedspread at
also bed-spread, 1830, American English, from bed (n.) + spread (n.).
bedstead (n.) Look up bedstead at
"framework for supporting a bed," c. 1400, from bed (n.) + stead.
bedtime (n.) Look up bedtime at
also bed-time, "the usual hour of going to rest," early 13c., from bed (n.) + time (n.). Bed-time story attested from 1867.
bee (n.) Look up bee at
stinging insect of the genus Apis, living in societies under a queen and producing wax and honey, Old English beo "bee," from Proto-Germanic *bion (source also of Old Norse by, Old High German bia, Middle Dutch bie), from PIE root *bhei- "bee."

Used metaphorically for "busy worker" since 1530s. Sense of "meeting of neighbors to unite their labor for the benefit of one of their number," 1769, American English, probably is from comparison to the combined labor and social activity of the insect; this was extended to other senses (such as spelling bee, first attested 1809; Raising-bee (1814) for building construction, logging-bee for a log-rolling; also hanging bee "a lynching").

To have a bee in (one's) bonnet (1825), said of one who is harebrained or has an intense new notion or fancy, is said in Jamieson to be Scottish, perhaps from earlier expressions such as head full of bees (1510s), denoting mad mental activity.
bee's knees (n.) Look up bee's knees at
1923, a survivor of a fad around this year for slang terms denoting "excellence" and based on animal anatomy. Also existed in the more ribald form bee's nuts. Other versions that lasted through the century are cat's whiskers (1923), cat's pajamas, cat's meow. More obscure examples are canary's tusks, cat's nuts and flea's eyebrows. The fad still had a heartbeat in Britain at the end of the century, as attested by the appearance of dog's bollocks in 1989. Bee's knee was used as far back as 1797 for "something insignificant."
bee-line (n.) Look up bee-line at
also beeline, "straightest line between two points," 1830, American English, from bee + line (n.), in reference to the homing of bees in the field.
TO LINE BEES is to track wild bees to their homes in the woods. One who follows this occupation is called a bee hunter. [Bartlett, 1859]
The verbal phrase line bees is attested from 1827.
bee-sting (n.) Look up bee-sting at
1680s, from bee + sting (n.). Related: Bee-stung, which, of lips, is attested by 1845.
Beeb (n.) Look up Beeb at
colloquial shortening of B.B.C., attested from 1967.
beech (n.) Look up beech at
type of large forest tree noted for its smooth, silvery bark and its mast, which serves as food for animals, Old English bece "beech," earlier boece, from Proto-Germanic *bokjon (source also of Old Norse bok, Dutch beuk, Flemish boek, Old High German buohha, German Buche, Middle Dutch boeke "beech"), from PIE root *bhago- "beech tree" (cognate with Greek phegos "oak," Latin fagus "beech;" see fagus). Formerly with adjectival form beechen. Also see book (n.).
beef (v.) Look up beef at
"to complain," slang, 1888, American English, from noun meaning "complaint" (1880s). The noun meaning "argument" is recorded from 1930s. The origin and signification are unclear; perhaps it traces to the common late 19c. complaint of soldiers about the quantity or quality of beef rations.
beef (n.) Look up beef at
c. 1300, "an ox, bull, or cow," also the flesh of one when killed, used as food, from Old French buef "ox; beef; ox hide" (11c., Modern French boeuf), from Latin bovem (nominative bos, genitive bovis) "ox, cow," from PIE root *gwou- "ox, bull, cow." Original plural in the animal sense was beeves.
beef up (v.) Look up beef up at
"add strength," 1941, from college slang, from beef (n.) in slang sense of "muscle-power" (1851).
beef-eater (n.) Look up beef-eater at
also beefeater, c. 1600 as a general contemptuous term for a well-fed menial; specifically as "warder of the Tower of London" from 1670s; the notion is of "one who eats (another's) beef" (see eater, and compare Old English hlaf-æta "servant," literally "loaf-eater").
beefcake (n.) Look up beefcake at
"display of male pulchritude" in movies or magazines, 1949, said to have been modeled on cheesecake, but there seems to have been an actual foodstuff called beefcake around this time. The word seems to be little used in that literal sense since the other sense emerged.
beefsteak (n.) Look up beefsteak at
also beef-steak, 1711, from beef (n.) + steak.
beefy (adj.) Look up beefy at
"brawny, fleshy and solid," 1743, from beef (n.) in colloquial extended sense "human muscle" + -y (2). Related: Beefiness.
beehive (n.) Look up beehive at
"habitation of bees," early 14c., from bee + hive (n.). Figurative of a busy place from 1610s. As the name of a hairstyle, attested from 1960 (the style itself said to have been popular from 1958). As the name of a star cluster in the constellation Cancer, from 1840 (see Praesepe).
beek (v.) Look up beek at
"to bask in the warmth" of something, early 13c., a northern and Scottish word of unknown origin; perhaps ultimately connected to bake (v.).
Beelzebub Look up Beelzebub at
Old English Belzebub, Philistine god worshipped at Ekron (II Kings i.2), from Latin, used in Vulgate for New Testament Greek beelzeboub, from Hebrew ba'al-z'bub "lord of the flies," from ba'al "lord" (see Baal) + z'bhubh "fly." Said to have been worshipped as having the power to drive away troublesome flies. By later Christian writers often taken as another name for "Satan," though Milton made him one of the fallen angels.

Baal being originally a title, it was applied by the Hebrews to neighboring divinities based on their attributes; other examples include Baal-berith "the covenant lord," god of the Shechemites; Baal-peor "lord of the opening," a god of Moab and Midian.
been (v.) Look up been at
past participle of be. Dismissive slang phrase been there, done that attested from 1994 (been there "had the experience," usually of something disreputable, is from 1880s).
beep (interj.) Look up beep at
1927, imitative of automobile horns (originally of the sound of a certain type of automobile horn, one among several in the years after the klaxon horn first was brought into use c. 1910). Used as a noun and verb by 1929. Related: Beeped; beeping.
beeper (n.) Look up beeper at
"device that emits beeps," 1946, agent noun from beep (v.).
beer (n.) Look up beer at
alcoholic drink made from grain, generally barley, infused with hops and boiled and fermented, Old English beor "strong drink, beer, mead," cognate with Old Frisian biar, Middle Dutch and Dutch bier, Old High German bior, German Bier; a West Germanic word of much-disputed and ambiguous origin.

Probably a 6c. West Germanic monastic borrowing of Vulgar Latin biber "a drink, beverage" (from Latin infinitive bibere "to drink," from PIE root *po(i)- "to drink"). Another suggestion is that it comes from Proto-Germanic *beuwoz-, from *beuwo- "barley." The native Germanic word for the beverage was the one that yielded ale (q.v.). "The word occurs in OE., but its use is rare, except in poetry, and it seems to have become common only in the 16th c. as the name of a hopped malt liquor." [OED]
Beer was a common drink among most of the European peoples, as well as in Egypt and Mesopotamia, but was known to the Greeks and Romans only as an exotic product. [Buck]
They did have words for it, however. Greek brytos, used in reference to Thracian or Phrygian brews, was related to Old English breowan "brew;" Latin zythum is from Greek zythos, first used of Egyptian beer and treated as an Egyptian word but perhaps truly Greek and related to zyme "leaven."

Spanish cerveza is from Latin cervesia "beer," which is perhaps related to Latin cremor "thick broth." Old Church Slavonic pivo, source of the general Slavic word for "beer," is originally "a drink" (compare Old Church Slavonic piti "drink"). French bière is a 16c. borrowing from German. U.S. slang beer goggles, through which every potential romantic partner looks desirable, is from 1986.
beery (adj.) Look up beery at
1837, from beer (n.) + -y (2). Related: Beerily; beeriness.
beestings (n.) Look up beestings at
"colostrum," late Old English bysting, from beost "first milk of a cow after calving," a general West Germanic word (cognates: Old High German biost, German Biest, Middle Dutch and Dutch biest, North Frisian bjast) of unknown origin.
beeswax (n.) Look up beeswax at
also bees-wax, "wax secreted by bees and used in making the cells of their hives," 1670s, from genitive of bee + wax (n.). As a jocular alteration of business (usually in an injunction to someone to mind his own) attested from 1934 in Lower East Side slang as reproduced in Henry Roth's "Call It Sleep."
beet (n.) Look up beet at
plant growing wild in northern Europe, cultivated for use of its succulent root as food and for sugar extraction, Old English bete "beet, beetroot," from Latin beta, which is said to be of Celtic origin. Common in Old English, then lost till c. 1400. Still usually spoken of in plural in U.S. A general West Germanic borrowing, cognates: Old Frisian bete, Middle Dutch bete, Old High German bieza, German Beete.
beet-root (n.) Look up beet-root at
1570s, from beet (n.) + root (n.).
beetle (n.1) Look up beetle at
insect of the order Coleoptera, Old English bitela "beetle," apparently originally meaning "little biter, biting insect," from bitel "biting," from Proto-Germanic *bitan, from PIE root *bheid- "to split," with derivatives in Germanic referring to biting.

By normal evolution it would be *bittle, but it seems to have been influenced by beetle (n.2). Sometimes applied to soft insects, as black beetle, an old name for the cockroach. As a nickname for the original Volkswagen car, 1946, translating German Käfer.
beetle (v.) Look up beetle at
"project, overhang," apparently a Shakespearean back-formation (in "Hamlet," 1602) from bitelbrouwed "grim-browed, sullen" (mid-14c.), from bitel "sharp-edged, sharp" (c. 1200), probably a compound from Old English *bitol "biting, sharp" (related to bite (v.)), + brow, which in Middle English meant "eyebrow," not "forehead." Meaning "to overhang dangerously" (of cliffs, etc.) is from c. 1600. Related: Beetled; beetling.
beetle (n.2) Look up beetle at
"heavy wooden mallet used to drive wedges, pack earth, etc.," Old English bietl "mallet, hammer," from Proto-Germanic *bautilo-z, from *bautan "to beat," from PIE root *bhau- "to strike."