Berean Look up Berean at
from Greek Beroia, name of a town in Macedonia. The name was taken up by Scottish dissenters in reference to Acts xvii.11 where the Christians of that town based faith on Scripture rather than human authority.
bereave (v.) Look up bereave at
Old English bereafian "to deprive of, take away by violence, seize, rob," from be- + reafian "rob, plunder," from Proto-Germanic *raubojanan, from PIE *reup- "to snatch" (see rapid). A common Germanic formation (compare Old Frisian birava "despoil," Old Saxon biroban, Dutch berooven, Old High German biroubon, German berauben, Gothic biraubon).

Since mid-17c., mostly in reference to life, hope, loved ones, and other immaterial possessions. Past tense forms bereaved and bereft have co-existed since 14c., now slightly differentiated in meaning, the former applied to loss of loved ones, the latter to circumstances.
bereavement (n.) Look up bereavement at
"grievous loss," especially the death of a friend or close relation, 1731, from bereave + -ment.
bereft (adj.) Look up bereft at
late 14c., past participle adjective from bereave (v.).
Berenice Look up Berenice at
fem. proper name, from Latin Berenice, from Macedonian Greek Berenike (classical Greek Pherenike), literally "bringer of victory," from pherein "to bring" (from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry") + nike "victory" (see Nike).

The constellation Berenice's Hair is from the story of the pilfered locks of the wife of Ptolemy Euergetes, king of Egypt, c. 248 B.C.E., which the queen cut off as an offering to Venus. The constellation features a dim but visible star cluster; Ptolemy (the astronomer) regarded it as the tuft of fur at the end of Leo's tail, but German cartographer Caspar Vopel put it on his 1536 globe, and it endured. Berenice's Hair is also sometimes incorrectly given as an old name of the star Canopus based on Holland's mistranslation of Pliny in 1601.
beret (n.) Look up beret at
also berret, "round, flat, woolen cap," originally worn by Basque peasants, 1827 as a fashionable accessory, from French béret, 19c., from dialect of Béarn, from Old Gascon berret "cap," from Medieval Latin birretum, diminutive of Late Latin birrus "a large hooded cloak," a word perhaps of Gaulish origin. For the clerical version, see biretta.
Beretta (n.) Look up Beretta at
Italian firearms manufacturer, business attested from 1520s, founded by gunsmith Bartolomeo Beretta (1498-1565) of Lombardy.
berg (n.) Look up berg at
short for iceberg, attested from 1819.
bergamot (n.) Look up bergamot at
type of citrus tree, also its fruit (similar to bitter orange), and the essence prepared from the oil of the rind of the fruit (formerly much used in perfumery), 1690s, from French bergamote (17c.), from Italian bergamotta, named for Bergamo, town in northern Italy. The name is Roman Bergamum, from a Celtic or Ligurian berg "mountain," cognate with the identical Germanic word.

Earlier (1610s) as a kind of pear deemed especially luscious; in this sense the word is ultimately a Romanic folk-etymologization of Turkish beg-armudi "prince's pear" or "prince of pears," influenced in form by the place-name (probably not directly from the town name, because it is on the opposite end of the peninsula from where the pear grows). Also used of garden plants of the mint order with a smell like that of oil of bergamot (1843).
beriberi (n.) Look up beriberi at
also beri-beri, paralytic disease prevalent in much of India, 1703, literally "great weakness," intensifying reduplication of Sinhalese beri "weakness."
Bering Look up Bering at
strait and sea between Alaska and Siberia, named for Danish explorer Vitus Bering (1681-1741), who worked for Peter the Great and led the first European expedition to sight Alaska, in 1741.
berk (n.) Look up berk at
"fool," 1936, abbreviation of Berkshire Hunt (or Berkeley Hunt), rhyming slang for cunt but typically applied only to contemptible persons, not to the body part.
This is not an objective, anatomical term, neither does it imply coitus. It connects with that extension of meaning of the unprintable, a fool, or a person whom one does not like. ["Dictionary of Rhyming Slang," 1960]
Berkeley Look up Berkeley at
city in California, named c. 1866 for George Berkeley (1685-1753), Bishop of Cloyne, who denied the objective reality of the material world. The college there opened in 1873. The surname (also Barclay) is the birch-tree wood or clearing. The transuranic element berkelium (1950) is named for the laboratory there, where it was discovered. It does not occur naturally.
Whether they knew or not
Goldsmith and Burke, Swift and the Bishop of Cloyne
All hated Whiggery; but what is Whiggery?
A levelling, rancorous, rational sort of mind
That never looked out of the eye of a saint
Or out of drunkard's eye.

[Yeats, from "The Seven Sages"]
Berkshire Look up Berkshire at
Old English Bearrocscir (893), from an ancient Celtic name meaning "hilly place" + Old English scir "shire, district."
Berlin Look up Berlin at
city in Brandenburg, capital of modern Germany. Folk-etymology derives it from German Bär "bear," but it is likely from a Slavic source (compare Old Polabian berl-, birl- "swamp"), from PIE *ber- "marshy place," in reference to the old city's location on low, marshy ground along the River Spree. A flashpoint city in the Cold War, the Berlin airlift ran from June 28, 1948 to May 12, 1949. The Berlin Wall began to be built Aug. 15, 1961, and was effective until Nov. 9, 1989. Related: Berliner.
berlin (n.) Look up berlin at
type of four-wheeled covered carriage, 1690s, so called because it was introduced in Brandenburg, c. 1670; see Berlin. Hence berline (from the French form) "automobile with a glass partition behind the driver's seat." In reference to a type of wool and the popular patterns made for it, from 1841.
berm (n.) Look up berm at
"narrow ledge," 1729, from French berme (17c.), from Old Dutch baerm "edge of a dike," which is probably related to brim (q.v.). In U.S., especially "grass strip beside a road," originally the name for the bank of a canal opposite the tow path (1833; berm-bank is from 1832).
Bermuda Look up Bermuda at
Atlantic island, named for Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez (d.1570), who discovered it c. 1515. Bermuda shorts first attested 1946 (in "The Princeton Alumni Weekly"), from the type of garb worn by U.S. tourists there. Bermuda triangle in the supernatural sense was popular from 1972. As the adjective form, Bermudian (1777) holds seniority over Bermudan (1895).
Bern Look up Bern at
Swiss capital, probably originally from PIE *ber- "marshy place," but by folk etymology from German Bär "bear" (compare Berlin). Related: Bernese.
Bernard Look up Bernard at
masc. proper name, from German Bernhard, literally "bold as a bear," from Old High German bero "bear" (see bear (n.)) + harti "hard, bold, strong" (see hard (adj.)). Saint Bernard (1091-1153) was the famous Cistercian monk; the breed of Alpine dogs is said to have been so called from early 18c. (in English by 1839), from the hospice founded in the Alpine pass that bears his name.
Bernicia Look up Bernicia at
Anglo-Saxon kingdom in northernmost England, founded by mid-6c., eventually merged into Northumbria; the name evidently is a survival of a pre-invasion Celtic name, perhaps that represented by the Welsh Bryneich. Related: Berenician
Bernoulli's principle Look up Bernoulli's principle at
named for Dutch mathematician Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782), who published it in 1738. The family produced several noted mathematicians.
berry (n.) Look up berry at
Old English berie "berry, grape," from Proto-Germanic *basjom (source also of Old Norse ber, Middle Dutch bere, German Beere "berry;" Old Saxon winberi, Gothic weinabasi "grape"), which is of unknown origin. This and apple are the only native fruit names.
berserk (adj.) Look up berserk at
1844, from berserk (n.) "Norse warrior" (by 1835), an alternative form of berserker, a word which was introduced (as berserkar) by Sir Walter Scott in "The Pirate" (1822), from Old Norse berserkr (n.) "raging warrior of superhuman strength." It is probably from *ber- "bear" + serkr "shirt," thus literally "a warrior clothed in bearskin" (see bear (n.) + sark). Thus not, as Scott evidently believed, from Old Norse berr "bare, naked" and meaning "warrior who fights without armor."
Thorkelin, in the essay on the Berserkir, appended to his edition of the Krisini Saga, tells that an old name of the Berserk frenzy was hamremmi, i.e., strength acquired from another strange body, because it was anciently believed that the persons who were liable to this frenzy were mysteriously endowed, during its accesses, with a strange body of unearthly strength. If, however, the Berserk was called on by his own name, he lost his mysterious form, and his ordinary strength alone remained. ["Notes and Queries," Dec. 28, 1850]
Perhaps later writers mistook the -r for an agent-noun suffix. The picture is further complicated because it has the form of the Old Norse plural, and English berserker sometimes is plural. The adjectival use probably grew from such phrases as berserk frenzy, or as a title (Arngrim the Berserk).
berserker (n.) Look up berserker at
alternative form of berserk (q.v.), from Old Norse berserkr, accusative of berserk. This is the oldest form of the word in its revival in Modern English (1822).
berth (n.) Look up berth at
1620s, "convenient sea room" (Bailey's dictionary), for ships or for sailors, a word of uncertain origin, probably from bear (v.) + abstract noun suffix -th (2) as in strength, health, etc. Original sense is preserved in the figurative phrase to give (something or someone) wide berth "keep well away from." Meaning "place on a ship to stow chests and for sailors to sleep" is from 1706; extended to non-nautical situations by 1778.
berth (v.) Look up berth at
1660s, of ships, "to assign or allot anchoring ground to," from berth (n.). Of persons, "to occupy a berth" (intransitive) from 1886. Related: Berthed; berthing.
Bertha Look up Bertha at
fem. proper name, from Old High German Berahta, Perahta, the name of a goddess, literally "the bright one," from Old High German beraht "bright," related to Old English beorht (from PIE root *bhereg- "to shine; bright, white"). Soldiers' nickname Big Bertha for large-bore German mortar of World War I is a reference to Frau Bertha Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (1886-1957), owner of Krupp steel works from 1903-43.
beryl (n.) Look up beryl at
hard, lustrous mineral occurring in hexagonal prisms, c. 1300, from Old French beryl (12c., Modern French béryl), from Latin beryllus, from Greek beryllos, which is perhaps from Prakrit veruliya, from Sanskrit vaidurya-, of Dravidian origin, which might be from the city of Velur (modern Belur) in southern India.

In Medieval Latin berillus was applied to any precious stone of a pale green color, to fine crystal, and to eyeglasses (the first spectacle lenses may have been made of beryl), hence German Brille "spectacles," from Middle High German berille "beryl," and French besicles (plural) "spectacles," altered 14c. from Old French bericle.
beryllium (n.) Look up beryllium at
metallic element, 1863, so called because it figures in the composition of the pale green precious stone beryl and was identified in emerald (green beryl) in 1797 by French chemist Louis Nicolas Vauquelin (1763-1829) and first isolated in 1828. With metallic element ending -ium. At first and until c. 1900 also sometimes called glucinum or glucinium.
beseech (v.) Look up beseech at
c. 1200, bisecen "to entreat, beg urgently," from Old English besecan; see be- + seek. "In contrast to the simple vb., in which the northern seek has displaced the southern seech, in the compound beseech has become the standard form" [OED]. Cognate with Old Frisian biseka, Dutch bezoeken, Old High German bisuochan. German cognate besuchen is merely "to visit." Related: Besought (OED writes that beseeched is "now regarded as incorrect"); beseeching.
beseeching (n.) Look up beseeching at
"supplication, prayer," c. 1300, verbal noun from beseech. As a past-participle adjective from 1704. Related: Beseechingly; beseechingness.
beseem (v.) Look up beseem at
early 13c., "to seem; to be seemly," from be- + seem (v.). Related: Beseemed; beseeming.
beseeming (adj.) Look up beseeming at
1520s, present participle adjective from beseem. Related: Beseemingly.
beset (v.) Look up beset at
Old English besettan "to put, place; own, keep; occupy, settle; cover, surround with, besiege," from Proto-Germanic *bisatjan (source also of Old Saxon bisettjan, Dutch bezetten, Old High German bisezzan, German besetzen, Gothic bisatjan); see be- + set (v.). The figurative sense "to press upon vigorously from all sides" also was in Old English. Related: Beset (past tense); besetting.
beshrew (v.) Look up beshrew at
early 14c., "deprave, pervert, corrupt," from be- + shrew (v.) "to curse;" see shrew. The milder meaning "to invoke evil upon" is from late 14c. Related: Beshrewed; beshrewing.
beside (prep., adv.) Look up beside at
c. 1200, from Old English be sidan "by the side of" (only as two words), from be- + sidan dative of side (n.). By 1200 as one word and used as both adverb and preposition. The alternative Middle English meaning "outside" is preserved in beside oneself "out of one's wits" (late 15c.).
besides (prep.) Look up besides at
attested from c. 1200, common after c. 1400, from beside (q.v.) + adverbial genitive -s. Once sharing all the senses of beside, now properly limited to the adverbial sense "in addition to, otherwise."
besiege (v.) Look up besiege at
"lay siege to," c. 1300, from be- + siege. Related: Besieged; besieging.
besmear (v.) Look up besmear at
Old English bismierwan, besmyrwan (West Saxon), besmerwan (Anglian); see be- + smear (v.). Related: Besmeared; besmearing.
besmirch (v.) Look up besmirch at
"to soil with soot or mud, to sully," now usually figurative, 1590s, from be- + smirch.
Our Gayness and our Gilt are all besmyrcht. ["Henry V," IV.iii.110]
Related: Besmirched; besmirching.
besom (n.) Look up besom at
Old English besma "bundle of twigs" (used as a broom or a flail), from West Germanic *besmon (source also of Old Frisian besma, Old Saxon besmo, Old High German besmo, German Besen, Dutch bezem), which is of unknown origin.
besot (v.) Look up besot at
"affect with a foolish manifestation," 1570s, from be- + sot. Related: Besotted; besotting.
besotted (adj.) Look up besotted at
"stupid, infatuated," 1570s, past participle adjective from besot. Related: Besottedness.
besought Look up besought at
Middle English besohte, past tense and past participle of beseech.
bespangle (v.) Look up bespangle at
"adorn with small, glittering objects," 1610s, from be- + spangle. Related: Bespangled; bespangling.
bespatter (v.) Look up bespatter at
"soil by splashing with dirty liquid," 1640s, from be- + spatter (v.). Related: Bespattered; bespattering.
bespeak (v.) Look up bespeak at
Old English besprecan "speak about, speak against, complain," from be- + sprecan "to speak" (see speak (v.)). A common Germanic compound (cognates: Old Saxon bisprecan, Dutch bespreken, Old High German bisprehhan, German besprechen); originally "to call out," it evolved a wide range of meaning in English, including "speak up," "oppose," "request," "discuss, "arrange," and "to order (goods)" (1580s).
The connection of the senses is very loose; some of them appear to have arisen quite independently of each other from different applications of BE- pref. [OED]
Related: Bespeaking; bespoke.
bespeckle (v.) Look up bespeckle at
"to mark with spots," c. 1600, from be- + speckle. Related: Bespeckled; bespeckling.
bespectacled (adj.) Look up bespectacled at
1742; see be- + spectacles.