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    baste (v.2) — beadsman (n.)

    baste (v.2)

    "to soak (cooking meat) in gravy or molten fat, moisten," late 14c., of unknown origin, possibly from Old French basser "to moisten, soak," from bassin "basin" (see basin). Related: Basted; basting.ETD baste (v.2).2

    bast (n.)

    "inner, fibrous bark of the linden tree," Old English bæst, a general Germanic word (cognate with Old Norse, Old Saxon, Middle Dutch, Old High German, German bast) of uncertain origin.ETD bast (n.).2

    baste (v.1)

    "sew together loosely," c. 1400, from Old French bastir "build, construct, sew up (a garment), baste, make, prepare, arrange" (12c., Modern French bâtir "to build"), probably from Frankish or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *bastjan "join together with bast" (source also of Old High German besten; see bast).ETD baste (v.1).2

    baste (v.3)

    "beat with a stick, thrash," 1530s, perhaps from the cookery sense of baste (v.2) or from Old Norse beysta "to beat" or a similar Scandinavian source (such as Swedish basa "to beat, flog," bösta "to thump"), from Proto-Germanic *baut-sti-, from PIE root *bhau- "to strike."ETD baste (v.3).2

    bastardize (v.)

    1610s, "to identify as a bastard," from bastard (q.v.) + -ize. The figurative sense, "to make degenerate, debase" is earlier (1580s), probably because bastard also was serving as a verb meaning "to declare illegitimate" (1540s). Related: Bastardized; bastardizing; bastardization.ETD bastardize (v.).2

    bastard (n.)

    "illegitimate child," early 13c., from Old French bastard "acknowledged child of a nobleman by a woman other than his wife" (11c., Modern French bâtard), probably from fils de bast "packsaddle son," meaning a child conceived on an improvised bed (saddles often doubled as beds while traveling), with pejorative ending -art (see -ard). An alternative possibly is that the word is from Proto-Germanic *banstiz "barn," equally suggestive of low origin.ETD bastard (n.).2

    Compare German bänkling "bastard; child begotten on a bench" (and not in a marriage bed), the source of English bantling (1590s) "brat, small child." Bastard was not always regarded as a stigma; the Conqueror is referred to in state documents as "William the Bastard."ETD bastard (n.).3

    The figurative sense of "thing not pure or genuine" is by late 14c. Its use as a generic vulgar term of abuse for a man is attested from 1830. Among the "bastard" words in Halliwell-Phillipps' "Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words" are avetrol, chance-bairn, by-blow, harecoppe, horcop, and gimbo ("a bastard's bastard").ETD bastard (n.).4

    As an adjective from late 14c. It is used of things spurious or not genuine, having the appearance of being genuine, of abnormal or irregular shape or size, and of mongrels or mixed breeds.ETD bastard (n.).5

    bastardy (n.)

    early 14c., "condition of illegitimacy," from Anglo-French and Old French bastardie, from bastard (see bastard). As "begetting of bastards, fornication" from 1570s.ETD bastardy (n.).2

    baster (n.)

    1520s, "one who bastes meat," from baste (v.2); from 1726 as "heavy blow," from baste (v.3).ETD baster (n.).2

    Bastille (n.)

    14th century Paris fortress later used as a prison and destroyed by revolutionaries on July 14, 1789, as a symbol of royal despotism; French, literally "fortress, gate tower" (see bastion). Many French cities kept their medieval gate-towers as prisons after other fortifications were removed. The word was in Middle English in the "fortress" sense as bastel, bastyle.ETD Bastille (n.).2

    bastinado (n.)

    "a beating with a cudgel" (especially on the soles of the feet, as torture or punishment), 1570s, from Spanish bastonada "a beating, cudgeling," from baston "stick," from Late Latin bastum (see baton). As a verb from 1610s.ETD bastinado (n.).2

    bastion (n.)

    "projection from a rampart," 1560s, from French bastillon, diminutive of Old French bastille "fortress, tower, fortified building," from Old Provençal bastir "to build," perhaps originally "make with bast" (see baste (v.1)).ETD bastion (n.).2

    batting (n.2)

    "action of striking with a bat," 1610s, verbal noun from bat (v.2). In cricket, from 1773. Baseball batting average is from 1867.ETD batting (n.2).2

    bat (n.1)

    "a stick or staff used in beating, a war-club, staff used to strike the ball in certain games," c. 1200, from rare Old English batt "cudgel," a western England word at first, probably from Welsh or another Celtic source (compare Irish and Gaelic bat, bata "staff, cudgel"), later reinforced and influenced by Old French batte "pestle," from Late Latin battre "to beat;" all from PIE root *bhat- "to strike." As a kind of wooden paddle used to play cricket (later baseball), it is attested from 1706.ETD bat (n.1).2

    A Middle English sense of "a lump, piece, chunk" (mid-14c.) was used in reference to bread, clay, wool, and survives in brickbat and batting (n.1).ETD bat (n.1).3

    The phrase right off the bat (1866), also hot from the bat (1870), probably represent a baseball metaphor, but cricket or some other use of a bat might as easily be the source—there is an early citation from Australia (in an article about slang): "Well, it is a vice you'd better get rid of then. Refined conversation is a mark of culture. Let me hear that kid use slang again, and I'll give it to him right off the bat. I'll wipe up the floor with him. I'll ---" ["The Australian Journal," November 1888].ETD bat (n.1).4

    bat (v.1)

    "to move the eyelids," 1847, American English, an extended sense from the earlier meaning "flutter (the wings) as a hawk" (1610s), a variant of bate (v.2). Related: Batted; batting.ETD bat (v.1).2

    bat (v.2)

    "to hit, beat, or strike with a bat," mid-15c., from bat (n.1). Specifically as "to strike a ball with a bat" from 1745. Related: Batted; batting.ETD bat (v.2).2

    bat (n.2)

    flying mouse-like mammal (order Chiroptera), 1570s, a dialectal alteration of Middle English bakke (early 14c.), which is probably related to Old Swedish natbakka, Old Danish nathbakkæ "night bat," and Old Norse leðrblaka "bat," literally "leather flapper," from Proto-Germanic *blak-, from PIE root *bhlag- "to strike" (see flagellum).ETD bat (n.2).2

    If so, the original sense of the animal name likely was "flapper." The shift from -k- to -t- may have come through confusion of bakke with Latin blatta "moth, nocturnal insect."ETD bat (n.2).3

    The Old English word for the animal was hreremus, from hreran "to shake" (see rare (adj.2)), and rattle-mouse, an old dialectal word for "bat," is attested from late 16c. Flitter-mouse (1540s) occasionally is used in English (with variants flinder-mouse, flicker-mouse) in imitation of German fledermaus "bat," from Old High German fledaron "to flutter."ETD bat (n.2).4

    As a contemptuous term for an old woman, it is perhaps a suggestion of witchcraft (compare fly-by-night), or from bat as "prostitute who plies her trade by night" [Farmer, who calls it "old slang" and finds French equivalent "night swallow" (hirondelle de nuit) "more poetic"].ETD bat (n.2).5

    batting (n.1)

    "sheets of cotton fiber," 1875, a variant of obsolete bat "felted mass of fur, wool, etc." (see bat (n.1)), on the notion of "beaten" fabric.ETD batting (n.1).2


    former name of Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, when it was the Dutch East Indies, a colony of the Netherlands; from Batavia, an ancient name for a region of Holland at the mouth of the Rhine, from Latin Batavi, a people who dwelt between the Rhine and the Waal on the island of Betawe. Related: Batavian.ETD Batavia.2

    batboy (n.)

    also bat-boy, 1910, "youth who has charge of the bats and other equipment of a baseball team," from bat (n.1) + boy.ETD batboy (n.).2

    batch (n.)

    late 15c., probably from a survival of an unrecorded Old English *bæcce "something baked" (compare Old English gebæc) from bacan "bake" (see bake (v.)). The generalized sense of "an aggregation of similar articles" is from 1590s. Batch is to bake as watch (n.) is to wake and match (n.2) "one of a pair" is to make. The word was extended 1713 to "any quantity produced at one operation."ETD batch (n.).2

    bate (v.1)

    c. 1300, "to alleviate, allay;" mid-14c., "suppress, do away with;" late 14c., "to reduce; to cease," a shortening of abate (q.v.). Now only in phrase bated breath (subdued or shortened breathing, from fear, passion, awe, etc.), which was used by Shakespeare in "The Merchant of Venice" (1596).ETD bate (v.1).2

    bate (v.2)

    c. 1300, "to contend with blows or arguments," from Old French batre "to hit, beat, strike" (11c., Modern French battre), from Late Latin battere, from Latin batuere "to beat, knock" (see batter (v.)). In falconry, "to beat the wings impatiently and flutter away from the perch." The figurative sense of "flutter downward" is attested from 1580s.ETD bate (v.2).2

    bateau (n.)

    "light, long boat for river navigation," 1711, from Canadian French bateau, from Old French batel, from Germanic *bait- "a boat" (see boat (n.)).ETD bateau (n.).2

    bated breath (n.)

    see bate (v.1).ETD bated breath (n.).2

    batement (n.)

    mid-15c., shortening of abatement.ETD batement (n.).2

    bathing (n.)

    1540s, verbal noun from bathe (v.). Bathing suit is recorded from 1852 (bathing costume from 1830); bathing beauty is from 1891, in reference to Frederick Leighton's "The Bath of Venus."ETD bathing (n.).2

    bath (n.)

    Old English bæð "an immersing of the body in water, mud, etc.," also "a quantity of water, etc., for bathing," from Proto-Germanic *badan (source also of Old Frisian beth, Old Saxon bath, Old Norse bað, Middle Dutch bat, German Bad), from PIE root *bhē- "to warm" + *-thuz, Germanic suffix indicating "act, process, condition" (as in birth, death). The etymological sense is of heating, not immersing.ETD bath (n.).2

    The city in Somerset, England (Old English Baðun) was so called from its hot springs. Bath salts is attested from 1875 (Dr. Julius Braun, "On the Curative Effects of Baths and Waters"). Bath-house is from 1705; bath-towel is from 1958.ETD bath (n.).3

    bathe (v.)

    Middle English bathen, from Old English baþian "to wash, lave, place in a bath, take a bath" (transitive and intransitive), from the source of bath (q.v.), with different vowel sound due to i-mutation. Related: Bathed; bathing. Similar verbs in Old Norse baða, Old High German badon, German baden.ETD bathe (v.).2

    bathetic (adj.)

    1834, from bathos on the model of pathetic (q.v.), which, however, does not come directly from pathos, so the formation is either erroneous or humorous. Bathotic (1863, perhaps on model of chaotic) is not much better.ETD bathetic (adj.).2

    bathos (n.)

    "ludicrous anticlimax, a descent from the sublime to the ridiculous," 1727, from Greek bathos "depth," which is related to bathys "deep" (see benthos). The word was introduced in this sense by Pope.ETD bathos (n.).2

    batholith (n.)

    1899, from German batholith (1892), coined by German geologist Eduard Suess from Greek bathos "depth" (see benthos) + -lith "stone."ETD batholith (n.).2

    bathrobe (n.)

    also bath-robe, "robe worn before or after taking a bath," 1894, from bath (n.) + robe (n.).ETD bathrobe (n.).2

    bathroom (n.)

    also bath-room, 1780, from bath + room (n.). Originally a room with apparatus for bathing (the only definition in "Century Dictionary," 1902); it came to be used 20c. in U.S. as a euphemism for a lavatory and often is noted as a word that confuses British travelers. To go to the bathroom, euphemism for "relieve oneself; urinate, defecate," is from 1920 (in a book for children), but typically is used without regard for whether an actual bathroom is involved.ETD bathroom (n.).2


    Biblical wife of King David, mother of Solomon, from Hebrew Bathshebha, literally "daughter of the oath," from bath "daughter."ETD Bathsheba.2

    bathtub (n.)

    also bath-tub, "a tub to bathe in," especially as a permanent fixture of a bathroom, 1837, from bath + tub. Prohibition-era bathtub gin is recorded by 1928.ETD bathtub (n.).2

    bathukolpian (adj.)

    also bathycolpian, etc., "big-breasted," 1825, from Greek bathykolpos "with full breasts," literally "deep-bosomed," from bathys "deep" (see benthos) + kolpos "breast" (see gulf (n.)). With -ian.ETD bathukolpian (adj.).2

    bathyscaphe (n.)

    "diving apparatus for reaching great depths," 1947, a name coined by its inventor, Swiss "scientific extremist" Prof. Auguste Piccard, from Greek bathys "deep" (see benthos) + skaphē "light boat, skiff" (see scaphoid).ETD bathyscaphe (n.).2

    batik (n.)

    Javanese technique of textile design, 1880, from Dutch, from Malay (Austronesian) mbatik, said to be from amba "to write" + titik "dot, point."ETD batik (n.).2

    batman (n.)

    "officer's servant," originally military title for "man in charge of a bat-horse and its load," 1755, from bat "pack-saddle" (late 14c.), from Old French bast (Modern French bât), from Late Latin bastum (see baton). Hence also batwoman (1941). The comic book hero dates from 1939.ETD batman (n.).2

    Bat Mitzvah

    1941, literally "daughter of command;" a Jewish girl who has reached age 12, the age of religious majority. Extended to the ceremony held on occasion of this.ETD Bat Mitzvah.2

    baton (n.)

    1540s, "a staff used as a weapon," from French bâton "stick, walking stick, staff, club, wand," from Old French baston (12c.) "stick, staff, rod," from Late Latin bastum "stout staff," which probably is of Gaulish origin or else from Greek *baston "support," from bastazein "to lift up, raise, carry." The meaning "staff carried as a symbol of office" is from 1580s; the musical sense of "conductor's wand" is by 1823, from French. Often Englished 17c.-18c. as batoon.ETD baton (n.).2

    Baton Rouge

    city in Louisiana, U.S., a French translation of Choctaw (Muskogean) itti homma "red pole," perhaps in reference to a painted boundary marker.ETD Baton Rouge.2

    batrachophobia (n.)

    "aversion to frogs and toads," 1863, from Latinized form of Greek batrakhos "a frog" + -phobia.ETD batrachophobia (n.).2


    also bat-shit, by 1967 as a variant of bullshit (n.) in the slang sense; from bat (n.2) + shit (n.). By early 1980s as "crazy," the sense shift is for uncertain reasons; perhaps (these are very long shots) from the notion of guano as an explosive or health problems caused by inhaling powdered bat feces in caves and mines. Also compare batty "crazy" (early 20c.), from the expression bats in (one's) belfry.ETD batshit.2

    battalion (n.)

    1580s, from French bataillon (16c.), from Italian battaglione "battle squadron," from diminutive of Vulgar Latin *battalia "battle," from Latin bauttere "to beat" (see batter (v.)). The specific sense of "part of a regiment" is from 1708. The oft-repeated quote "God is on the side of the largest battalions" (with many variants) usually is attributed to 17c. French military genius and marshal Turenne:ETD battalion (n.).2

    batten (v.1)

    "to improve; to fatten," 1590s, probably representing an unrecorded Middle English dialectal survival of Old Norse batna "improve" (source also of Old English batian, Old Frisian batia, Old High German bazen, Gothic gabatnan "to become better, avail, benefit," Old English bet "better;" also see boot (n.2)). Related: Battened; battening.ETD batten (v.1).2

    batten (v.2)

    "to furnish with battens," 1775, from batten (n.) "strip of wood, bar nailed across parallel boards to hold them together." The nautical phrase batten down "cover (hatches) with tarpaulin and nail it down with battens to make it secure" is recorded from 1821. Related: Battened; battening.ETD batten (v.2).2

    batten (n.)

    "strip of wood, bar nailed across parallel boards to hold them together," 1650s, Englished variant of baton "a stick, a staff" (see baton). The nautical sense of "strip of wood nailed down over a tarpaulin over a ship's hatches to prevent leakage in stormy weather" is attested from 1769.ETD batten (n.).2

    Battenberg (n.)

    type of cake, 1903, from name of a town in Germany, the seat of a family which became known in Britain as Mountbatten.ETD Battenberg (n.).2

    batter (v.)

    "strike repeatedly, beat violently and rapidly," early 14c., from Old French batre "to beat, strike" (11c., Modern French battre "to beat, to strike"), from Latin battuere, batuere "to beat, strike," a rare word in literary Latin but evidently an old one and popular in Vulgar Latin. It is said to be probably borrowed from Gaulish (compare Welsh bathu "beat," Irish and Gaelic bat, bata "staff, cudgel") and to be perhaps from PIE root *bhau- "to strike." (source also of Welsh bathu "beat;" Old English beadu "battle," beatan "to beat," bytl "hammer, mallet").ETD batter (v.).2

    The word began to be widely used in reference to domestic abuse in 1962. Related: Battered; battering. Battering-ram is an ancient weapon (Latin aries), but the phrase is attested only from 1610s.ETD batter (v.).3

    batter (n.2)

    "one who strikes or beats with a bat," 1773, agent noun from bat (v.2). The earlier noun was batsman (1756).ETD batter (n.2).2

    batter (n.1)

    in cookery, "a mixture of ingredients (flour, eggs, milk) beaten together," late 14c., from Old French batteure "a beating," from Latin battuere "to beat, knock" (see batter (v.)).ETD batter (n.1).2

    battery (n.)

    1530s, "action of battering," in law, "the unlawful beating of another," from French batterie, from Old French baterie "beating, thrashing, assault" (12c.), from batre "to beat," from Latin battuere (see batter (v.)).ETD battery (n.).2

    The meaning shifted in French from "bombardment" ("heavy blows" upon city walls or fortresses) to "unit of artillery" (a sense recorded in English from 1550s). The extension to "electrical cell" (1748, in Ben Franklin) is perhaps from the artillery sense via notion of "discharges" of electricity. In Middle English, bateri meant only "forged metal ware." In obsolete baseball jargon battery was the word for "pitcher and catcher" considered as a unit (1867, originally only the pitcher).ETD battery (n.).3

    batty (adj.)

    1580s, "pertaining to or resembling a bat or bats," from bat (n.2) + -y (2). The slang sense of "nuts, crazy" is attested from 1903, from the colloquial expression (to have) bats in (one's) belfry "not be right in the head" (1899).ETD batty (adj.).2

    battle (n.)

    "fight or hostile engagement between opposing forces," c. 1300, from Old French bataille "battle, single combat," also "inner turmoil, harsh circumstances; army, body of soldiers," from Late Latin battualia "exercise of soldiers and gladiators in fighting and fencing," from Latin battuere "to beat, to strike" (see batter (v.)).ETD battle (n.).2

    Battle-cry is from 1812; battle-flag from 1840; battle-scarred is from 1848. Phrase battle royal "fight involving several combatants" is from 1670s.ETD battle (n.).3

    battle (v.)

    early 14c., "to fight," from French batailler (12c.), from bataille (see battle (n.)). Related: Battled; battling.ETD battle (v.).2

    battle-axe (n.)

    also battle-ax, late 14c., weapon of war, from battle (n.) + axe (n.); meaning "formidable woman" is U.S. slang, attested by 1896.ETD battle-axe (n.).2

    battledore (n.)

    mid-15c., "bat-like implement used in washing clothes," of unknown origin, perhaps from Old Provençal batedor, Spanish batidor "beater, bat," from batir "to beat;" perhaps blended with Middle English betel "hammer, mallet" (see beetle (n.2)). As a type of racket used in a game, from 1590s, so called from similarity of shape.ETD battledore (n.).2

    battlefield (n.)

    also battle-field, "scene of a battle," 1812, from battle (n.) + field (n.). The usual word for it in Old English was wælstow, literally "slaughter-place."ETD battlefield (n.).2

    battlement (n.)

    "an indented parapet in fortifications," early 14c., from Old French bataillement, earlier bastillement "fortification," from bastillier "to fortify, to equip with battlements," from bastille "fortress, tower" (see bastion). The raised parts are cops or merlons; the indentations are embrasures or crenelles.ETD battlement (n.).2

    battleship (n.)

    also battle-ship, "powerful warship designed to fight in a line of battle," 1794, shortened from line-of-battle ship (1705), a ship of the line, one large enough to take part in a main attack (formerly one of 74-plus guns); from battle (n.) + ship (n.). Later in the U.S. Navy it was used of a class of ships that carried guns of the largest size. They were rendered obsolete by seaborne air power and guided missiles; the last in the U.S. Navy was decommissioned in 2006. Battleship-gray as a color is attested from 1916. Fighter and bomber airplanes in World War I newspaper articles sometimes were called battleplanes, but it did not catch.ETD battleship (n.).2

    battology (n.)

    "needless repetition in speaking or writing," c. 1600, from Greek battologia "a speaking stammeringly," from battos "stammerer," of imitative origin, + -logia (see -logy). Related: Battological; battologist.ETD battology (n.).2

    bauble (n.)

    early 14c., "showy trinket or ornament," from Old French baubel "child's toy, trinket," probably a reduplication of bel, from Latin bellus "pretty" (see belle). Or perhaps it is related to babe, baby. The meaning "a trifle, thing of little or no value" is from 1630s.ETD bauble (n.).2

    baud (n.)

    1932, originally a unit of speed in telegraphy, coined in French in 1929 in honor of French inventor and engineer Jean-Maurice-Émile Baudot (1845-1903), who designed a telegraph printing system.ETD baud (n.).2

    Bauhaus (n.)

    1923, from German Bauhaus, literally "architecture-house;" name of a school of design founded in Weimar, Germany, 1919 by Walter Gropius (1883-1969), later extended to the principles it embodied. The first element is bau "building, construction, structure," from Old High German buan "to dwell" (from PIE root *bheue- "to be, exist, grow"). For the second element, see house (n.).ETD Bauhaus (n.).2


    alternative spelling of balk, especially in billiards, in reference to a bad shot.ETD baulk.2

    bauxite (n.)

    "clayey mineral containing aluminum," 1861, from French bauxite (1821), from Les Baux, near Arles, in France, where it first was found. The place name is from Provençal Li Baus, literally "the precipices."ETD bauxite (n.).2


    German Bayern, Medieval Latin Boiaria, named for the Boii, the ancient Celtic people who once lived there (also see Bohemia). Related: Bavarian.ETD Bavaria.2

    bawd (n.)

    a complicated word of uncertain history. It is attested from late 15c. in the sense "lewd person" (of either sex, but since c. 1700 applied exclusively to women); probably [Middle English Compendium] from Old French baud "gay, licentious" (from Frankish *bald "bold" or some such Germanic source; see bold), despite the doubts of OED.ETD bawd (n.).2

    For the French sense evolution from "bold" to "lewd," compare Old French baudise "ardor, joy, elation, act of boldness, presumption;" baudie "elation, high spirits," fole baudie "bawdry, shamelessness." The Old French word also is the source of French baudet "donkey," in Picardy dialect "loose woman."ETD bawd (n.).3

    The English word perhaps is a shortening of baude-strote "procurer or procuress of prostitutes" (c. 1300). The second element in baude-strote would be trot "one who runs errands," or Germanic *strutt (see strut (v.)). There was an Old French baudestrote, baudetrot of the same meaning (13c.), and this may be the direct source of Middle English baude-strote. The obsolete bronstrops "procuress," frequently found in Middleton's comedies, probably is an alteration of baude-strote.ETD bawd (n.).4

    bawdy (adj.)

    late 14c., baudi, "soiled, dirty, filthy," from bawd + -y (2). Perhaps influenced by Middle English bauded, bowdet "soiled, dirty," from Welsh bawaidd "dirty," from baw "dirt, filth." The meaning "lewd, obscene, unchaste" is from 1510s, from notion of "pertaining to or befitting a bawd;" usually of language (originally to talk bawdy).ETD bawdy (adj.).2

    Related: Bawdily; bawdiness. Bawdy-house "house of prostitution" is from 1550s.ETD bawdy (adj.).3

    bawdry (n.)

    late 14c., "pandering, business of a procuress," probably from Old French bauderie "boldness, ardor, elation, pride," from baud (see bawd). From 1580s as "obscenity, smuttiness, lewd language."ETD bawdry (n.).2

    bawl (v.)

    mid-15c., "to howl like a dog," from Old Norse baula "to low like a cow," and/or Medieval Latin baulare "to bark like a dog," both echoic. The meaning "shout loudly" is attested from 1590s. To bawl (someone) out "reprimand loudly" is by 1908, American English. Related: Bawled; bawling.ETD bawl (v.).2


    surname, Middle English Bacestere (11c.), literally "baker;" see bake (v.) + -ster. Compare Old English bæcestre, fem. of bæcere "baker," which seems to suggest the surname meant "female baker," but Reaney ("Dictionary of English Surnames") notes that "Baxter is found mainly in the Anglian counties and is used chiefly of men. Only two examples have been noted with a woman's christian name."ETD Baxter.2

    Bayard (n.)

    generic or mock-heroic name for a horse, mid-14c., from Old French Baiard, name of the bay-colored magic steed given by Charlemagne to Renaud in the legends, from Old French baiart "bay-colored" (see bay (adj.)). Also by early 14c. proverbial as a blind person or thing, for now-unknown reasons.ETD Bayard (n.).2

    The name later was used attributively of gentlemen of exceptional courage and integrity, in this sense from Pierre du Terrail, seigneur de Bayard (1473-1524), French knight celebrated as Chevalier sans peur et sans reproche. The surname is perhaps in reference to hair color.ETD Bayard (n.).3

    bayberry (n.)

    "fruit of the bay tree," 1570s, from bay (n.4) + berry. In Jamaica, the name given to a type of myrtle (Pimenta acris), 1680s, from which bay-rum (1832) is made.ETD bayberry (n.).2

    bayonet (n.)

    1610s, originally a type of flat dagger; as a soldiers' steel stabbing weapon fitted to the muzzle of a firearm, from 1670s, from French baionnette (16c.), said to be from Bayonne, city in Gascony where supposedly they first were made; or perhaps it is a diminutive of Old French bayon "crossbow bolt." The city name is from Late Latin baia "bay" (which was borrowed into Basque from Spanish) + Basque on "good." As a verb from c. 1700.ETD bayonet (n.).2

    bayou (n.)

    "sluggish watercourse, outlet of a lake or river," 1766, American English, via Louisiana French, from Choctaw (Muskogean) bayuk "small stream."ETD bayou (n.).2

    bazaar (n.)

    1580s, from Italian bazarra, ultimately from Persian bazar (Pahlavi vacar) "a market," from Old Iranian *vaha-carana "sale, traffic," from suffixed form of PIE root *wes- (1) "to buy, sell" (see venal) + PIE *kwoleno-, suffixed form of root *kwel- (1) "revolve, move round; sojourn, dwell."ETD bazaar (n.).2

    bazar (n.)

    alternative spelling of bazaar.ETD bazar (n.).2

    bazooka (n.)

    "metal tube rocket launcher," 1942, transferred from the name of a junkyard musical instrument used (c. 1935) as a prop by U.S. comedian Bob Burns (1896-1956); the word is an extension of bazoo, a slang term for "mouth" or "boastful talk" (1877), which is probably from Dutch bazuin "trumpet."ETD bazooka (n.).2

    bazooms (n.)

    "woman's breasts," especially when deemed prominent, 1955, American English slang alteration of bosoms.ETD bazooms (n.).2


    also BBC, 1923, abbreviation of British Broadcasting Company, continued after 1927 when it was replaced by British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC English as a type of standardized English recommended for radio announcers is recorded from 1928.ETD B.B.C..2


    see B.B.C.ETD BBC.2


    abbreviation of barbecue, by 1956, American English.ETD BBQ.2


    abbreviation of Before Christ, in chronology, attested by 1823. The phrase itself, Before Christ, in dating, with exact years, is in use by 1660s.ETD B.C..2


    initialism (acronym) for "Before Common Era" or "Before Christian Era," 1881; see C.E. A more or less secular alternative to B.C.ETD B.C.E..2


    see B.C.E.ETD BCE.2

    be (v.)

    Old English beon, beom, bion "be, exist, come to be, become, happen," from Proto-Germanic *biju- "I am, I will be." This "b-root" is from PIE root *bheue- "to be, exist, grow," and in addition to the words in English it yielded the German present first and second person singular (bin, bist, from Old High German bim "I am," bist "thou art"), the Latin perfective tenses of esse (fui "I was," etc.), Old Church Slavonic byti "be," Greek phu- "become," Old Irish bi'u "I am," Lithuanian būti "to be," Russian byt' "to be," etc.ETD be (v.).2

    The modern verb to be in its entirety represents the merger of two once-distinct verbs, the "b-root" represented by be and the am/was verb, which was itself a conglomerate. Roger Lass ("Old English") describes the verb as "a collection of semantically related paradigm fragments," while Weekley calls it "an accidental conglomeration from the different Old English dial[ect]s." It is the most irregular verb in Modern English and the most common.ETD be (v.).3

    Collective in all Germanic languages, it has eight different forms in Modern English: BE (infinitive, subjunctive, imperative); AM (present 1st person singular); ARE (present 2nd person singular and all plural); IS (present 3rd person singular); WAS (past 1st and 3rd persons singular); WERE (past 2nd person singular, all plural; subjunctive); BEING (progressive & present participle; gerund); BEEN (perfect participle).ETD be (v.).4

    The paradigm in Old English was: eom, beo (present 1st person singular); eart, bist (present 2nd person singular); is, bið (present 3rd person singular); sind, sindon, beoð (present plural in all persons); wæs (past 1st and 3rd person singular); wære (past 2nd person singular); wæron (past plural in all persons); wære (singular subjunctive preterit); wæren (plural subjunctive preterit).ETD be (v.).5

    The "b-root" had no past tense in Old English, but often served as future tense of am/was. In 13c. it took the place of the infinitive, participle and imperative forms of am/was. Later its plural forms (we beth, ye ben, they be) became standard in Middle English and it made inroads into the singular (I be, thou beest, he beth), but forms of are claimed this turf in the 1500s and replaced be in the plural. For the origin and evolution of the am/was branches of this tangle, see am and was.ETD be (v.).6


    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).ETD be-.2

    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).ETD be-.3

    being (n.)

    c. 1300, "existence," in its most comprehensive sense, "condition, state, circumstances; presence, fact of existing," early 14c., existence," from be + -ing. The sense of "that which physically exists, a person or thing" (as in human being) is from late 14c.ETD being (n.).2

    beach (v.)

    "to haul or run up on a beach," 1814, from beach (n.). Related: Beached; beaching.ETD beach (v.).2

    beach (n.)

    1530s, "loose, water-worn pebbles of the seashore," probably from a dialectal survival of Old English bece, bece "stream," from Proto-Germanic *bakiz (source also of Dutch beek, German Bach, Swedish bäck "stream, brook, creek"), perhaps from PIE root *bhog- indicating flowing water.ETD beach (n.).2

    It was extended to loose, pebbly shores (1590s), and in dialect around Sussex and Kent beach still has the meaning "pebbles worn by the waves." French grève shows the same evolution. Beach ball is recorded by 1940; beach bum by 1950.ETD beach (n.).3

    beach-comber (n.)

    1840, from beach (n.) + agent noun from comb (v.). Century Dictionary (1889) defines it as "A seafaring man generally, of vagrant and drunken habits, who idles about the wharves of seaports; used most frequently in countries bordering on the Pacific ocean." The original reference (Dana, "Two Years Before the Mast") used the word to describe the life of "half of the Americans and English who are adrift along the coasts of the Pacific and its islands."ETD beach-comber (n.).2

    It also could mean "a long, rolling wave."ETD beach-comber (n.).3

    beach-front (n.)

    also beachfront, "part of a town fronting and facing the sea, seashore of a town," American English, 1876, the beach front (in reference to Galveston); see beach (n.) + front (n.). As an adjective by 1889, in reference to Atlantic City.ETD beach-front (n.).2

    beach-head (n.)

    also beachhead, "a position on a beach taken from the enemy by assault from the sea and used as a base for further attack," 1940, in reference to German military tactics in World War II, from beach (n.) + head (n.). On the model of bridgehead, but the image doesn't quite work; worse is the attempt at airhead.ETD beach-head (n.).2

    beacon (n.)

    Middle English beken, from Old English beacen "sign, portent, lighthouse," from West Germanic *baukna "beacon, signal" (source also of Old Frisian baken, Old Saxon bokan, Old High German bouhhan); according to Watkins it is probably from Proto-Germanic *baukna- "beacon, signal," from suffixed form of PIE root *bha- (1) "to shine." The figurative use is attested from c. 1600.ETD beacon (n.).2

    bead (n.)

    mid-14c., bede, "prayer bead," from Old English gebed "prayer," with intensive or collective prefix *ge- + Proto-Germanic *bidam "entreaty." This reconstructed word is also the source of Middle Dutch bede, Old High German beta, German bitte, Gothic bida "prayer, request," which according to Watkins is from a PIE root *gwhedh- "to ask, pray."ETD bead (n.).2

    The shift in meaning in English comes via rosary beads threaded on a string to count prayers, and in verbal phrases bid one's beads, count one's beads, etc. The German cognate Bitte is the usual word for the conversational request "please." Compare Spanish cuentas "the beads of a rosary," from contar "to count."ETD bead (n.).3

    The word is also related to bid (Old English biddan) and Gothic bidjan "to ask, pray." The sense in Modern English was further transferred to other small globular bodies, such as "drop of liquid" (1590s), "small knob forming front sight of a gun" (1831, Kentucky slang); hence draw a bead on "take aim at," 1841, U.S. colloquial.ETD bead (n.).4

    bead (v.)

    1570s, "adorn with beads," from bead (n.). The meaning "string like beads" is from 1819. The intransitive sense of "form in beads" is by 1873. Related: Beaded; beading.ETD bead (v.).2

    beady (adj.)

    in reference to eyes, "small, round, and glittering," 1826, from bead (n.) + -y (2). Related: Beadily; beadiness.ETD beady (adj.).2

    beadle (n.)

    Middle English bidel, from Old English bydel "herald, messenger from an authority, preacher," from Proto-Germanic *budilaz "herald" (source also of Dutch beul, Old High German butil, German Büttel "herald"), which is, according to Watkins, from PIE root *bheudh- "be aware, make aware."ETD beadle (n.).2

    The sense of "warrant officer, tipstaff" was in late Old English; that of "petty parish officer," which has given the job a bad reputation, is from 1590s. French bédeau (Old French bedel, 12c.), Spanish bedel, Italian bidello are Germanic loan-words.ETD beadle (n.).3

    beadsman (n.)

    "one who prays for another's benefit," early 13c.; see bead (n.) + man (n.). Often a resident of a hospital or almshouse who was expected to pray for the founders and benefactors. Related: Beadswoman.ETD beadsman (n.).2

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