fem. proper name, from Italian bella "fair," from Latin bella, fem. of bellus "beautiful, fair" (see belle). In some cases short for Isabella (see Isabel).
belladonna (n.)
1590s, "deadly nightshade" (Atropa belladonna), from Italian, literally "fair lady" (see belle + Donna); the plant so called supposedly because women made cosmetic eye-drops from its juice (a mid-18c. explanation; atropic acid, found in the plant, has a well-known property of dilating the pupils) or because it was used to poison beautiful women (a mid-19c. explanation). Perhaps a folk etymology alteration; Gamillscheg suggests it is ultimately of Gaulish origin.
bright star in the left shoulder of Orion, from Latin bellatrix "female warrior," frequently used as an adjective, "warlike, skilled in war," fem. of bellator "to wage war," from bellum "war" (see bellicose). The Latin name, from the Alfonsine Tables (mid-13c.), very loosely translates the Arabic name for the star, Al Najid "the conqueror."
In astrology it was the natal star of all destined to great civil or military honors, and rendered women born under its influence lucky and loquacious; or as old Thomas Hood said, "Women born under this constellation shall have mighty tongues." [Allen]
belle (n.)
"beautiful woman well-dressed; reigning beauty," 1620s, from French belle, from Old French bele, from Latin bella, fem. of bellus "beautiful, fair," from PIE *dwenelo-, diminutive form of root *deu- (2) "to do, perform; show favor, revere." "The dim. meaning is the reason why bellus was originally used to refer to women and children; it was applied to men only ironically" [de Vaan].
local hero of Corinth, who slew the Chimera, from Latin form of Greek Bellerophontes, probably literally "killer of (the demon) Bellerus," with -phontes "killer of."
belles-lettres (n.)
"elegant literature, literature as fine art," 1710, French, literally "fine letters," from belles, plural of belle, fem. of beau "fine, beautiful" (see beau) + lettres, plural of lettre "letter" (see letter (n.)). The literary equivalent of beaux arts; its boundaries never have been exact, and it is "now generally applied (when used at all) to the lighter branches of literature, or the æsthetics of literary study" [OED].
belletrist (n.)
also bellettrist, 1816, an awkward contraction of belles-lettres + -ist. Adjective belletristic is recorded from 1821.
bellhop (n.)
also bell-hop, by 1906, American English, shortening of slang bellhopper (1899), from bell (n.) + hop (v.). The notion is one who "hops" into action when the bell is rung.
bellicose (adj.)
early 15c., "inclined to fighting," from Latin bellicosus "warlike, valorous, given to fighting," from bellicus "of war," from bellum "war" (Old Latin duellum, dvellum), which is of uncertain origin.
The best etymology for duellum so far has been proposed by Pinault 1987, who posits a dim. *duelno- to bonus. If *duelno- meant 'quite good, quite brave', its use in the context of war (bella acta, bella gesta) could be understood as a euphemism, ultimately yielding a meaning 'action of valour, war' for the noun bellum. [de Vaan]
bellicosity (n.)
1840, from bellicose + -ity.
bellied (adj.)
having a swelling or hollow middle, late 15c., from belly (n.). From 1590s as "puffed out." Also, since 16c., in compounds, "having a belly" (of a certain kind).
belligerence (n.)
"warlike nature or actions," 1804; see belligerent + -ence. Related: belligerency. Middle English had belligeration "warfare."
belligerent (adj.)
1570s, "waging war, engaged in hostilities," from Latin belligerantem (nominative belligerans), past participle of belligerare "to wage war," from bellum "war" (see bellicose) + gerere "to bear, to carry" (see gest). The noun meaning "party or nation at war" is from 1811. Related: Belligerently.
Roman goddess of war, from Latin bellum "war" (Old Latin duellum, dvellum), which is of uncertain origin (see bellicose). Her temple stood outside the walls.
bellow (v.)
early 14c., apparently from Old English bylgan "to bellow," from PIE root *bhel- (4) "to sound, roar." Originally of animals, especially cows and bulls; used of human beings since c. 1600. Related: Bellowed; bellowing. As a noun, "a loud, deep cry," from 1763.
bellowing (n.)
late 14c., verbal noun from bellow (v.). As a present-participle adjective, recorded from 1610s.
bellows (n.)
"instrument for producing a current of air," especially for a fire, c. 1200, belwes, literally "bags," plural of belu, belw, northern form of beli, from late Old English belg "pair of bellows; bag, purse, leathern bottle," from PIE *bhelgh- "to swell," extended form of root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."

Essentially the same word as belly (n.) and retaining its original sense. It is attested earlier in the specific term blæstbælg, literally "blowing bag," and the modern word is perhaps a reduction of this (compare Old Norse blastrbelgr, German Blasebalg). Used exclusively in plural since 15c., probably due to the two handles or halves.
bellwether (n.)
also bell-wether, "lead sheep (on whose neck a bell was hung) of a domesticated flock," mid-14c. (late 13c. in Anglo-Latin; late 12c. as a surname), from bell (n.) + wether. Figurative sense of "chief, leader" is from mid-14c.
belly (n.)
a general Germanic word for "leather bag, pouch, pod" that in English has evolved to mean a part of the body; from Old English belg, bylig (West Saxon), bælg (Anglian) "leather bag, purse, pouch, pod, husk, bellows," from Proto-Germanic *balgiz "bag" (source also of Old Norse belgr "bag, bellows," bylgja "billow," Gothic balgs "wine-skin"), from PIE *bhelgh- "to swell," extended form of root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."

By c. 1200 it was being used for "the stomach," especially as a symbol of gluttony, and by late 14c. to mean "abdomen of a human or animal, front part of the body between the breast and the groin or the diaphragm and the pelvis." The Old English word for "belly, stomach" was buc (cognate with German Bauch, Dutch buik, from a West Germanic word indicative of swelling). The plural of Old English belg emerged in Middle English as a separate word, bellows. Meaning "bulging part or convex surface of anything" is 1590s. The West Germanic root had a figurative or extended sense of "anger, arrogance" (as in Old English bolgenmod "enraged;" belgan (v.) "to become angry"), probably from the notion of "swelling."

Indo-European languages commonly use the same word for both the external belly and the internal (stomach, womb, etc.), but the distinction of external and internal is somewhat present in English belly/stomach; Greek gastr- (see gastric) in classical language denoted the paunch or belly, while modern science uses it only in reference to the stomach as an organ.

As a personal name from 12c. Belly-naked in Middle English was "stripped to the belly, completely naked." Fastidious avoidance of belly in speech and writing (compensated for by stretching the senses of imported stomach and abdomen, baby-talk tummy and misappropriated midriff) began late 18c. and the word was banished from Bibles in many early 19c. editions.
belly (v.)
c. 1600 "cause to swell out;" 1620s, "to swell out" (intrans.), from belly (n.). Related: Bellied; bellying. Old English belgan meant "to be or become angry" (a figurative sense). A comparable Greek verb-from-noun, gastrizein, meant "to hit (someone) in the belly."
belly-ache (n.)
also bellyache, 1590s, "pain in the bowels," from belly (n.) + ache (n.). The verb in the slang sense of "complain" is first recorded 1888, American English; it appears not to have been used earlier than that, if ever, in a literal sense. Related: bellyached; bellyaching.
belly-button (n.)
also bellybutton, "navel," 1877, colloquial, from belly (n.) + button (n.).
belly-dance (n.)
also bellydance, 1883, from belly (n.) + dance (n.), in later uses translating French danse du ventre. As a verb from 1963. Related: Belly-dancer (1922); belly-dancing (n.), 1921.
belly-punch (n.)
also bellypunch, "fist-blow to the stomach," 1811, from belly (n.) + punch (n.3).
bellyful (n.)
figuratively, "enough and more," 1530s, from belly (n.) + -ful. Older than the literal sense (1570s).
belong (v.)
mid-14c., "to go along with, properly relate to," from be- intensive prefix, + longen "to go," from Old English langian "pertain to, to go along with," which is of uncertain origin but perhaps related to the root of long (adj.). Senses of "be the property of" and "be a member of" first recorded late 14c. Cognate with Middle Dutch belanghen, Dutch belangen, German belangen. Replaced earlier Old English gelang, with completive prefix ge-.
belongings (n.)
"goods, effects, possessions," 1817, from plural of verbal noun from belong.
beloved (adj.)
late 14c., past-participle adjective from obsolete verb belove "to please; be pleased with" (c. 1200), from be- + loven "to love" (see love (v.)). Noun meaning "one who is beloved" is from 1520s, first in Biblical language.
below (adv.)
"in a lower position," early 14c., biloogh, from be- "by, about" + logh, lou, lowe "low" (see low (adj.)). Apparently a variant of earlier a-lowe (influenced by other adverbs in be-; see before), the parallel form to an-high (now on high).

Beneath was the usual word; below was very rare in Middle English and gained currency only in 16c. It is frequent in Shakespeare. As a preposition from 1570s. In nautical use, "off-duty," in contradistinction to "on deck." Meaning "inferior in rank or dignity" is from c. 1600. According to Fowler, below is the opposite of above and concerns difference of level and suggests comparison of independent things. Under is the opposite of over and is concerned with superposition and subjection and suggests some interrelation.
last Chaldean king of Babylon (Daniel v), from Hebrew Belshatztzar, a contraction of Akkadian Bel-shar-usur, literally "Bel-protect-the-king" (see Bel).
belt (n.)
Old English belt "belt; girdle; broad, flat strip or strap of material used to encircle the waist," from Proto-Germanic *baltjaz (source also of Old High German balz, Old Norse balti, Swedish bälte), an early Germanic borrowing from Latin balteus "girdle, sword belt," said by Varro to be an Etruscan word.

Transferred sense of "broad stripe encircling something with its ends joined" is from 1660s; that of "broad strip or tract" of any sort, without notion of encircling (as in Bible belt is by 1808). As a mark of rank or distinction, mid-14c.; references to boxing championship belts date from 1812. Mechanical sense is from 1795. Below the belt "unfair" (1889) is from pugilism. To get something under (one's) belt was originally literal, to get it into one's stomach (1839), figurative use by 1931. To tighten (one's) belt "endure privation" is from 1887.
belt (v.)
early 14c., "to fasten or gird with a belt," from belt (n.). Meaning "to thrash as with a belt" is 1640s; general sense of "to hit, thrash" is attested from 1838. Colloquial meaning "to sing or speak vigorously" is from 1949. Related: Belted; belting. Hence (from the "thrash with a belt" sense) the noun meaning "a blow or stroke" (1885).
Beltane (n.)
early 15c., from Lowland Scottish, from Gaelic bealltainn "May 1," important Celtic religious rite marking the start of summer, probably literally "blazing fire," from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn" + Old Irish ten "fire," from PIE *tepnos, related to Latin tepidus "warm," from PIE root *tep- "to be hot." But this derivation of the second element is hotly disputed by some on philological grounds, and fires were equally important in the other Celtic holidays.
The rubbish about Baal, Bel, Belus imported into the word from the Old Testament and classical antiquity, is outside the scope of scientific etymology. [OED]
Also known as "Old May Day," because after the 1752 calendar reform it continued to be reckoned according to Old Style; it was one of the quarter-days of ancient Scotland.
beltless (adj.)
1854, from belt (n.) + -less.
beltway (n.)
term in U.S. for a ring highway around an urban area, especially Interstate 495 around Washington, D.C., the Capital Beltway, completed 1964; from belt (n.) + way (n.). Since c. 1978 used figurative for "Washington, D.C., and its culture" for better or worse.
beluga (n.)
1590s, from Russian beluga, literally "great white," from belo- "white" (from PIE *bhel-o-, suffixed form of root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white") + augmentative suffix -uga. Originally the great white sturgeon, found in the Caspian and Black seas; later (1817) the popular name for the small white whale (Delphinapterus leucas) found in northern seas.
belvedere (n.)
"raised turret or open story atop a house," 1590s, from Italian belvedere, literally "a fair sight," from bel, bello "beautiful" (from Latin bellus "beautiful, fair;" see belle) + vedere "a view, sight" (from PIE root *weid- "to see"). Pronunciation perhaps influenced by the French form of the word. So called because it was used for viewing the grounds.
Bembo (n.)
type face, 1930; the type was cut in 1929 based on one used in 1496 by Aldus Manutius in an edition of a work by Italian poet and scholar Pietro Bembo (1470-1547).
bemoan (v.)
late Old English bemænan "to bemoan, wail, lament;" see be- + moan (v.). Related: Bemoaned; bemoaning.
bemuse (v.)
"to make utterly confused, put into muse or reverie, muddle, stupefy," from be- + muse (compare amuse); attested from 1735 but probably older, as Pope (1705) punned on it as "devoted utterly to the Muses."
bemused (adj.)
1735, past participle adjective from bemuse (v.). Related: Bemusedly.
bemusement (n.)
1881, from bemuse + -ment.
ben (n.)
"mountain peak" in Celtic place names (especially of roughly pyramidal peaks standing alone), 1788, from Gaelic beinn "peak, summit, mountain," from Old Irish *benno- "peak, horn, conical point," from PIE *bend- "projecting point."
bench (n.)
Old English benc "long seat," especially one without a back, from Proto-Germanic *bankon (source also of Old Frisian bank "bench," Old Norse bekkr, Danish bænk, Middle Dutch banc, Old High German banch). The group is cognate with bank (n.2) "natural earthen incline beside a body of water," and perhaps the original notion is "man-made earthwork used as a seat."

Used from late 14c. of a merchant's table. From c. 1300 in reference to the seat where judges sat in court, hence, by metonymy, "judges collectively, office of a judge." Hence also bencher "senior member of an inn of court" (1580s). Sporting sense "reserve of players" (in baseball, North American football, etc.) is by 1909, from literal sense of place where players sit when not in action (attested by 1889). A bench-warrant (1690s) is one issued by a judge, as opposed to one issued by an ordinary justice or magistrate.
bench (v.)
"to take out of a (baseball) game," 1902, from bench (n.) in the sporting sense. Earlier it meant "to display (a dog) in a dog show" (1863). Related: Benched; benching. Old English had a verb bencian, but it meant "to make benches."
bench-warmer (n.)
1892, baseball slang; see bench.
The days for "bench-warmers" with salaries are also past. ["New York Sporting News," Jan. 9, 1892]
Old English had bencsittend "one who sits on a bench."
benchmark (n.)
also bench-mark, "surveyor's point of reference," 1838, from a specialized surveyors' use of bench (n.) + mark (n.1); figurative sense is from 1884. The literal use is in reference to an angle-iron stuck in the ground as a support ("bench") for the leveling-staff.
bend (v.)
Old English bendan "to bend a bow, bring into a curved state; confine with a string, fetter," causative of bindan "to bind," from Proto-Germanic base *band- "string, band" (source also of Old Norse benda "to join, strain, strive, bend"), from PIE root *bhendh- "to bind."

Meaning "curve or make crooked" (early 14c.) is via the notion of bending a bow to string it. Intransitive sense of "become curved or crooked" is from late 14c., that of "incline, turn from the straight line" is from 1510s. Figurative meaning "bow, be submissive" is from c. 1400. Cognate with band, bind, bond, and Bund. Related: Bended; bent; bending.
bend (n.2)
"broad diagonal band in a coat-of-arms, etc.," mid-14c., from earlier sense of "thin, flat strap for wrapping round," from Old English bend "fetter, shackle, chain," from PIE *bhendh- "to bind" (see bend (v.)). Probably in part also from Old French bende (Modern French bande) and Medieval Latin benda, both from Germanic. Ordinarily running from the right top to the left bottom; the bend sinister runs along the other diagonal.
bend (n.1)
1590s, "a bending or curving;" c. 1600, "thing of bent shape, part that is bent;" from bend (v.). The earliest sense is "act of drawing a bow" (mid-15c.). Old English bend (n.) meant "bond, chain, fetter; band, ribbon," but it survives only in nautical use in this form, the other senses having gone to band (n.1). The bends "decompression pain" first attested 1894.