behindhand (adv., adj.) Look up behindhand at
"in the rear, in a backward state," especially "insolvent, unable to pay," 1520s, from prepositional phrase; see behind, probably on model of beforehand (q.v.).
behold (v.) Look up behold at
Old English bihaldan (West Saxon behealdan) "give regard to, hold in view," also "keep hold of; belong to," from be- + haldan, healdan (see hold (v.)). Related: Beheld; beholding. A common West Germanic compound, compare Old Saxon bihaldan "hold, keep," Old Frisian bihalda, Old High German bihaltan, German behalten, but "[t]he application to watching, looking, is confined to English" [OED]. Related: Beholding.
beholden (adj.) Look up beholden at
"under obligation, obliged, bound in gratitude," mid-14c., originally past participle of behold (and preserving the original past participle of hold), but a sense directly related to this usage is not recorded among the many and varied meanings attested for behold.
beholder (n.) Look up beholder at
late 14c., agent noun from behold.
behoof (n.) Look up behoof at
c. 1200, "use, benefit, advantage," from Old English *bihof "advantage, utility" (implied by bihoflic "useful," and compare behoove), from Proto-Germanic *bi-hof "that which binds, requirement, obligation" (source also of Old Frisian bihof "advantage," Dutch behoef, Middle High German bihuof "useful thing," German Behuf "benefit, use, advantage," Danish behov "need, necessity"). In the common Germanic compound, the first element, likely intensive, is cognate with be- and the second with Old English hof, past tense of hebban "to raise" (see heave (v.)). The original sense is perhaps, then, "taking up (for oneself)."
behoove (v.) Look up behoove at
Old English behofian "to have need of, have use for," verbal form of the ancient compound word represented by behoof (q.v.). From c. 1200 as "be fit or meet for, be necessary for," now used only in the third person, with it as subject. Related: Behooved; behooving.
Historically, it rimes with move, prove, but being now mainly a literary word, it is generally made to rime with rove, grove, by those who know it only in books. [OED]
behove Look up behove at
chiefly British English spelling of behoove.
beige (n.) Look up beige at
1858, "fine woolen fabric," from dialectal French beige "yellowish-gray, brownish-gray," from Old French bege "the natural color of wool and cotton; raw, not dyed" (13c.), of obscure origin. According to Gamillscheg, the French word was especially associated with the Burgundy and Franche-Comté regions. As a shade of color, it is attested in English from 1891. As an adjective, "having the natural color of undyed wool," by 1875.
beignet (n.) Look up beignet at
"fritter," 1827, from French beignet "fritter, egg-roll, doughnut" (14c.), from Old French buigne "bump, lump," from Frankish or some other Germanic source (compare Middle High German bunge "clod, lump"), or from Gaulish *bunia (compare Gaelic bonnach).
Beijing Look up Beijing at
Chinese capital, from bei "north" + jing "capital" (as opposed to Nanking, literally "southern capital").
being (n.) Look up being at
c. 1300, "existence," in its most comprehensive sense, "condition, state, circumstances; presence, fact of existing," early 14c., existence," from be + -ing. Sense of "that which physically exists, a person or thing" (as in human being) is from late 14c.
beingness (n.) Look up beingness at
1660s, from being + -ness.
Beirut Look up Beirut at
Lebanese capital, from Hebrew, literally "the wells," from be'erot, plural of be'er "well."
bejesus (interj.) Look up bejesus at
mild expletive, 1908, probably from by Jesus. Compare bejabbers (by 1821 in representations of Irish dialect), from the same source. To beat the bejesus out of someone is a transferred sense from 1934.
bejewel (v.) Look up bejewel at
"provide or adorn with jewels," 1550s, from be- + jewel. Related: Bejeweled.
beknow (v.) Look up beknow at
c. 1300, "to become acquainted with; to be aware or conscious of" (obsolete), from Old English becnawan "to know," or a Middle English formation from be- + know (v.). Related: Beknown; beknowing.
bel (n.) Look up bel at
unit of power level in measuring sound, 1929, named for Scottish-born telephone pioneer Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922).
bel (adj.) Look up bel at
"beautiful," early 14c., from Old French bel, belle "beautiful, fair, fine," from Latin bellus "fair, fine, beautiful" (see belle). "Naturalized in ME.; but after 1600 consciously French" [OED].
Bel Look up Bel at
also in Latin form Belus, heaven-and-earth god of Babylonian religion, from Akkadian Belu, literally "lord, owner, master," cognate with Hebrew ba'al (see Baal).
bel canto Look up bel canto at
1894, Italian, literally "fine song." See belle + chant.
bel paese (n.) Look up bel paese at
proprietary name of a type of mild, creamy cheese, 1935, Italian literally "beautiful country or region."
belabor (v.) Look up belabor at
1590s, "to exert one's strength upon" (obsolete), from be- + labor (v.). But the figurative sense of "assail with words" is attested somewhat earlier (1590s); and belabored is attested from mid-15c. with a sense of "tilled, cultivated." Related: Belaboring.
belabour (v.) Look up belabour at
chiefly British English spelling of belabor (q.v.); for spelling, see -or. Related: Belaboured; belabouring.
belated (adj.) Look up belated at
1610s, "overtaken by night" from staying too late or being delayed, past participle adjective from belate "to make late, detain," from be- + late. Sense of "coming past due, behind date" is from 1660s. Related: Belatedly; belatedness.
belay (v.) Look up belay at
"to secure or fasten," from Old English belecgan, which, among other senses ("cover, invest, surround; afflict; accuse"), meant "to lay a thing about" (with other objects), from be- + lecgan "to lay" (from PIE root *legh- "to lie down, lay"). The only surviving sense is the nautical one of "coil a running rope round a cleat or pin to secure it" (also transferred to mountain-climbing), first attested 1540s; but this is possibly from Dutch cognate beleggen. Related: Belayed; belaying.
belch (v.) Look up belch at
Old English bealcan "bring up wind from the stomach," also "swell, heave," of echoic origin (compare Dutch balken "to bray, shout"). Extended to volcanoes, cannons, etc. 1570s. Related: Belched; belching. As a noun, "an act of belching," it is recorded from 1510s; also slang for "poor beer, malt liquor" (1706).
beldam (n.) Look up beldam at
also beldame, "aged woman," 1570s; earlier "grandmother" (mid-15c.), from dame (q.v.) in the sense of "mother" + bel-, Middle English prefix expressing relationship (as in belfader, belsire "grandfather"), from Old French bel, belle "beautiful, fair, fine" (see belle). This "direct relationship" sense of bel is not found in French, where the prefix, however, is used to form words for in-laws.
beleaguer (v.) Look up beleaguer at
1580s, "besiege, surround, blockade," literal and figurative, from Dutch or Low German belegeren "to besiege," from be- "around" (from Proto-Germanic *bi- "around, about;" see by) + legeren "to camp," from leger "bed, camp, army, lair," from Proto-Germanic *legraz-, from PIE *legh-ro-, suffixed form of root *legh- "to lie down, lay." A word from the Flemish Wars (cognates: Swedish belägra, Dutch belegeren "besiege," German Belagerung "siege"). Spelling influenced by league. Related: Beleaguered; beleaguering.
beleave (v.) Look up beleave at
Old English belæfan, "to cause or allow to remain behind, to leave something behind," a general Germanic compound (compare Gothic bilaibjan) from be- + Old English læfan "to leave" (see leave (v.)). Obsolete from 17c. In Middle English sometimes contracted to bleve. For further development, see belive.
belemnite (n.) Look up belemnite at
type of fossil common in Jurassic sediments, the remains of an extinct squid-like animal, 1640s, from Greek belemnon "dart" (from ballein "to throw, to throw so as to hit," from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach") + -ite (1). So called for their shape.
belfry (n.) Look up belfry at
c. 1400, "wooden siege tower on wheels" (late 13c. in Anglo-Latin with a sense "bell tower"), from Old North French berfroi "movable siege tower" (Modern French beffroi), from Middle High German bercfrit "protecting shelter," from Proto-Germanic compound *berg-frithu, literally "high place of security," or that which watches over peace." From bergen "to protect" (from PIE root *bhergh- (1) "to hide, protect") or [Watkins] *bergaz "mountain, high place" (from PIE root *bhergh- (2) "high," with derivatives referring to hills and hill-forts) + *frithu- "peace; personal security" (see affray).

The etymological meaning was forgotten, which led to folk-etymologies and a great diversity of spellings. It came to be used for bell towers (mid-15c.), which at first often were detached from church buildings (as the "Leaning Tower" of Pisa and the Campanile on Plaza San Marco in Venice), and the spelling was altered by dissimilation or by association with bell (n.).
Belgian (adj.) Look up Belgian at
1620s, in reference to the ancient Belgæ (see Belgium). The modern country was formed 1830-31. Belgian Congo formed 1908 by annexation.
Belgic (adj.) Look up Belgic at
1580s, "of or pertaining to the ancient Belgae," from Latin Belgicus, from Belgae (see Belgium).
Belgium Look up Belgium at
c. 1600, "Low Germany and the Netherlands," from the Latin name of the territory occupied by the Belgæ, a Celtic or Celto-Germanic tribe that in Roman times occupied the area below the mouth of the Rhine, including modern Belgium and much of northeastern France. Adopted 1830 as the name of a new nation formed from the southern part of the former United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Belgravia Look up Belgravia at
fashionable residential district of London, noted for the wealthiness and aristocracy of its residents, it was developed in the 1820s and after on land owned by Earl Grosvenor and named (with -ia) for Belgrave, site of a Grosvenor estate in Cheshire.
Belial Look up Belial at
early 13c., from Late Latin, from Greek, from Hebrew bel'yya'al "destruction," literally "worthless," from b'li "without" + ya'al "use." Wickedness as an evil force (Deuteronomy xiii.13); later treated as a proper name of Satan (2 Corinthians vi.15), though Milton made him one of the fallen angels.
belie (v.) Look up belie at
Old English beleogan "to deceive by lies," from be- + lie (v.1) "to lie, tell lies." Current sense of "to contradict as a lie, give the lie to, show to be false" is first recorded 1640s.

The other verb lie once also had an identical variant form, from Old English belicgan, which meant "to encompass, beleaguer," and in Middle English was a euphemism for "to have sex with" (i.e. "to lie with carnally").
belief (n.) Look up belief at
late 12c., bileave, "confidence reposed in a person or thing; faith in a religion," replacing Old English geleafa "belief, faith," from West Germanic *ga-laubon "to hold dear, esteem, trust" (source also of Old Saxon gilobo, Middle Dutch gelove, Old High German giloubo, German Glaube), from *galaub- "dear, esteemed," from intensive prefix *ga- + PIE root *leubh- "to care, desire, love." The prefix was altered on analogy of the verb believe. The distinction of the final consonant from that of believe developed 15c.
The be-, which is not a natural prefix of nouns, was prefixed on the analogy of the vb. (where it is naturally an intensive) .... [OED]
Meaning "conviction of the truth of a proposition or alleged fact without knowledge" is by 1530s; it is also "sometimes used to include the absolute conviction or certainty which accompanies knowledge" [Century Dictionary]. From c. 1200 as "a creed, essential doctrines of a religion or church, things held to be true as a matter of religious doctrine;" the general sense of "That which is believed" is by 1714. Related: Beliefs.

Belief meant "trust in God," while faith meant "loyalty to a person based on promise or duty" (a sense preserved in keep one's faith, in good (or bad) faith, and in common usage of faithful, faithless, which contain no notion of divinity). But faith, as cognate of Latin fides, took on the religious sense beginning in 14c. translations, and belief had by 16c. become limited to "mental acceptance of something as true," from the religious use in the sense of "things held to be true as a matter of religious doctrine."
believability (n.) Look up believability at
1865; see believable + -ity.
believable (adj.) Look up believable at
late 14c., from believe + -able. Related: Believably.
believe (v.) Look up believe at
Old English belyfan "to have faith or confidence" (in a person), earlier geleafa (Mercian), gelefa (Northumbrian), gelyfan (West Saxon), from Proto-Germanic *ga-laubjan "to believe," perhaps literally "hold dear (or valuable, or satisfactory), to love" (source also of Old Saxon gilobian "believe," Dutch geloven, Old High German gilouben, German glauben), ultimately a compound based on PIE root *leubh- "to care, desire, love" (see belief).

Meaning "be persuaded of the truth of" (a doctrine, system, religion, etc.) is from mid-13c.; meaning "credit upon the grounds of authority or testimony without complete demonstration, accept as true" is from early 14c. General sense "be of the opinion, think" is from c. 1300. Related: Believed (formerly occasionally beleft); believing.

The form beleeve was common till 17c., the spelling then changed, perhaps by influence of relieve, etc. To believe on instead of in was more common in 16c. but now is a peculiarity of theology; believe of also sometimes was used in 17c. Expression believe it or not attested by 1874; Robert Ripley's newspaper cartoon of the same name is from 1918. Emphatic you better believe attested from 1854.
believer (n.) Look up believer at
1540s, "one who has faith in religion," agent noun from believe. From c. 1600 as "one who gives credence (to anything) without personal knowledge, one firmly persuaded of the truth of something."
belittle (v.) Look up belittle at
1781, "to make small, reduce in proportion," from be- + little (v.); first recorded in writings of Thomas Jefferson (and probably coined by him), Jefferson used it in "Notes on the State of Virginia" to characterize the incorrect view promoted by French naturalist Buffon that American species were naturally smaller than European ones, which Jefferson was at pains to refute. ("So far the Count de Buffon has carried this new theory of the tendency of nature to belittle her productions on this side of the Atlantic.") The word was roundly execrated in England:
Belittle! What an expression! It may be an elegant one in Virginia, and even perfectly intelligible; but for our part, all we can do is to guess at its meaning. For shame, Mr. Jefferson! ["European Magazine and London Review," 1787; to guess was considered another Yankee barbarism]
The figurative sense of "depreciate, scorn as worthless" (as the reviewers did to this word) is from 1797 and is now almost the only sense. Related: Belittled; belittling.
belive (v.) Look up belive at
obsolete verb from Old English belifan "remain," intransitive form of belæfan "cause to remain" (see beleave). A general Germanic compound (cognates: Old Saxon bilibhon, Gothic bileiban, Old High German biliban, German bleiben, Dutch blijven). It was confused in early Middle English with beleave and merged into it, which gave beleave two clashing senses ("to leave," also "to remain") which might be why the compound word, the cognate of important verbs in other Germanic languages, was abandoned in English and only leave (v.) remains.
bell (v.) Look up bell at
"attach a bell to," late 14c., from bell (n.). Related: Belled; belling. Allusions to the story of the mice that undertook to bell the cat (so they can hear him coming) date to late 14c.
bell (n.) Look up bell at
"hollow metallic instrument which rings when struck," Old English belle, which has cognates in Middle Dutch belle, Middle Low German belle but is not found elsewhere in Germanic (except as a borrowing); apparently from PIE root *bhel- (4) "to sound, roar" (compare Old English bellan "to roar," and see bellow).

As a division of daily time aboard a ship, by 1804, from its being marked by bells struck every half hour. Statistical bell curve is by 1920, said to have been coined was coined 1870s in French. Of glasses in the shape of a bell from 1640s. Bell pepper is from 1707, so called for its shape. Bell, book, and candle is a reference to a form of excommunication (the bells were rung out of order and all together to signify the loss of grace and order in the soul of the excommunicated). To ring a bell "awaken a memory" (1934) is perhaps a reference to Pavlovian experiments.
bell-bottoms (n.) Look up bell-bottoms at
type of trousers, 1882, from bell (n.) + bottom (n.). Distinguished in the late 1960s from flares by the shape of the expanded part (flares straight, bell-bottoms of inverted cup-shape, like a bell).
bell-boy (n.) Look up bell-boy at
also bellboy, from bell (n.) + boy; originally (1851) a ship's bell-ringer, later (1861) a hotel page.
bell-jar (n.) Look up bell-jar at
1830, so called for its shape, from bell (n.) + jar (n.). Earlier was bell-glass (1680s).
bell-metal (n.) Look up bell-metal at
"alloy used in making cast bells," 1540s, from bell (n.) + metal (n.). Typically copper and tin, with a higher proportion of tin than usual in bronze.