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    Benedictine (n.) — best (adj.)

    Benedictine (n.)

    c. 1600, "one of the order known (from the color of its dress) as the Black Monks," founded c. 529 at Monte Cassino, in Italy, by St. Benedict (see benedict). With -ine (1).ETD Benedictine (n.).2

    benefactor (n.)

    "one who confers a benefit, a kindly helper," especially "one who endows a charitable institution," mid-15c., from Late Latin benefactor, from Latin phrase bene facere, from bene "well" (see bene-) + facere "to do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). Translated in Old English as wel-doend. Also in 15c. benefetour, from Old French bienfaiteur.ETD benefactor (n.).2

    beneficent (adj.)

    1610s, "doing good, charitable through good will," probably from beneficence on model of magnificent, etc. The Latin adjective is beneficus.ETD beneficent (adj.).2

    benefice (n.)

    c. 1300, "a church living, church office endowed with a revenue," from Old French benefice (13c.) and directly from Latin beneficium "a favor, service, generosity, kindness, benefit," from beneficus "generous, kind, benevolent, obliging," from bene- "good, well" (see bene-) + -ficium "a doing," from -ficere, combining form of facere "to do, to make" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put").ETD benefice (n.).2

    beneficence (n.)

    "quality of being beneficent, kind, or charitable, practice of doing good," mid-15c., from Latin beneficentia "kindness, generosity," from beneficus "generous, kind, benevolent, obliging," from bene- "good, well" (see bene-) + -ficus "doing," from -ficere, combining form of facere "to do, to make" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). Related: Beneficency.ETD beneficence (n.).2

    beneficial (adj.)

    mid-15c., "helpful, advantageous, conferring benefit," from Old French bénéficial and directly from Latin beneficialis "pertaining to a favor," from beneficium "a favor, service, kindness," from beneficus "generous, kind, benevolent, obliging," from bene- "good, well" (see bene-) + -ficus "making, doing," from -ficere, combining form of facere "to do, to make" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). Related: Beneficially.ETD beneficial (adj.).2


    1610s (n.) "one who receives profits or advantages," 1620s (adj.) "connected with the receipt of profits or advantages," probably via French bénéficiaire, from Latin beneficiarius "enjoying a favor, privileged," from beneficium "a favor, service, generosity, kindness, benefit," from beneficus "generous, kind, benevolent, obliging," from bene- "good, well" (see bene-) + -ficus "making, doing," from -ficere, combining form of facere "to do, to make" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put").ETD beneficiary.2

    benefit (n.)

    late 14c., benefet, "good or noble deed; helpful or friendly action," also "a beneficial thing; advantage, profit," from Anglo-French benfet (Old French bienfait), from Latin benefactum "good deed," from bene facere, from bene "well" (see bene-) + facere "to do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). The meaning "public performance or entertainment to raise money for some deserving unfortunate person or charitable cause" is from 1680s.ETD benefit (n.).2

    benefit (v.)

    "do good to, be of service," late 15c., from benefit (n.). Related: Benefited; benefiting.ETD benefit (v.).2

    benefits (n.)

    "financial support (especially for medical expenses) to which one is entitled through employment or membership," 1895, plural of benefit (n.).ETD benefits (n.).2


    the customs union of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg, formed October 1947.ETD Benelux.2

    benevolence (n.)

    c. 1400, "disposition to do good," from Old French benivolence (Modern French bienveillance) and directly from Latin benevolentia "good feeling, good will, kindness," from bene "well" (see bene-) + volentem (nominative volens) present participle of velle "to wish" (see will (v.)).ETD benevolence (n.).2

    In English history, this was the name given to forced extra-legal loans or contributions to the crown, first so called 1473 by Edward IV, who "asked" it as a token of good will toward his rule.ETD benevolence (n.).3

    benevolent (adj.)

    mid-15c., "wishing to do good, well-disposed, kindly," from Old French benivolent and directly from Latin benevolentem (nominative benevolens) "wishing (someone) well, benevolent," related to benevolentia "good feeling," from bene "well" (see bene-) + volentem (nominative volens) present participle of velle "to wish" (see will (v.)). Related: Benevolently.ETD benevolent (adj.).2


    region in South Asia, named for its people, said to be from Banga, name of a founding chief. It is attested in Europe as far back as Marco Polo (1298), who wrote of Bangala. Related: Bengali; Bengalese.ETD Bengal.2

    benight (v.)

    1550s, "to be overtaken by darkness;" 1630s, "to involve with darkness," from be- + night. Figurative sense of "to involve in moral or intellectual darkness" is from c. 1600, and the word is rarely used now except in the form of the figurative past-participle adjective benighted.ETD benight (v.).2

    benighted (adj.)

    1570s, "overtaken by darkness," past-participle adjective from obsolete verb benight (q.v.). Little used in the literal sense, usually it means "in intellectual or moral darkness" (1630s).ETD benighted (adj.).2

    benign (adj.)

    "of a kind disposition; gracious; kind; benignant; favorable," early 14c., from Old French benigne "kind, benign, merciful, gracious" (12c., Modern French bénin, fem. bénigne), from Latin benignus "kindly, kindhearted, friendly, generous," literally "well born," from bene "well" (see bene-) + gignere "to bear, beget," from genus "birth" (from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget"). For similar sense evolution, compare gentle, kind (adj.), generous. Related: Benignly.ETD benign (adj.).2

    benignant (adj.)

    "kind, gracious, favorable," 1739, from benign on model of its opposite, malignant. From 1790 as "exerting a good influence." Related: Benignantly; benignancy.ETD benignant (adj.).2

    benignity (n.)

    "goodness of disposition," late 14c., from Old French benignité "goodness, kindness" (12c.), from Latin benignitatem (nominative benignitas) "kindness, friendliness, benevolence," from benignus "kindly, kindhearted" (see benign).ETD benignity (n.).2


    former West African kingdom, from the Bini people, whose name is perhaps related to Arabic bani "sons." Though the people now is associated with Nigeria, the name was taken 1974 by the former nation of Dahomey.ETD Benin.2

    benison (n.)

    c. 1300, "blessing, beatitude," from Old French beneison, beneiçon "blessing, benediction," from Late Latin benedictionem (see benediction).ETD benison (n.).2


    masc. proper name, in Old Testament, Jacob's youngest son (Genesis xxxv.18), from Hebrew Binyamin, literally "son of the south," though interpreted in Genesis as "son of the right hand," from ben "son of" + yamin "right hand," also "south" (in an East-oriented culture). Compare Arabic cognate yaman "right hand, right side, south;" yamana "he was happy," literally "he turned to the right."ETD Benjamin.2

    The right was regarded as auspicious (see left and dexterity). Also see Yemen, southpaw, and compare deasil "rightwise, turned toward the right," from Gaelic deiseil "toward the south; toward the right," from deas "right, right-hand; south." Also compare Sanskrit dakshina "right; south," and Welsh go-gledd "north," literally "left."ETD Benjamin.3

    In reference to a favorite younger son, it is from the story of Jacob's family in Genesis. With familiar forms Benjy, Benny. Slang meaning "money" (by 1999) is from the portrait of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin on the U.S. $100 bill. In some old uses in herb-lore, etc., it is a folk-etymology corruption of benzoin.ETD Benjamin.4

    bent (adj.)

    "not straight, curved like a strung bow," late 14c. (earlier ibent, c. 1300), from past participle of bend (v.). The meaning "turned or inclined in some direction" is from 1530s, probably as a translation of Latin inclinatio. The meaning "directed in a course" is from 1690s.ETD bent (adj.).2

    Used throughout 20c. in various slang and underworld senses: "criminal; illegal; stolen; corrupted; broken; insane; homosexual;" compare the slang uses of crooked. The figurative phrase bent out of shape "extremely upset" is 1960s in U.S. Air Force and college student slang.ETD bent (adj.).3

    bent (n.2)

    "stiff grass," Old English beonet (attested only in place names), from West Germanic *binut- "rush, marsh grass" (source also of Old Saxon binet, Old High German binuz, German Binse "rush, reed"), which is of unknown origin. An obsolete word, but surviving in place names (such as Bentley, from Old English Beonet-leah; and Bentham).ETD bent (n.2).2

    bent (n.1)

    "mental inclination, natural state of the mind as disposed toward something," 1570s, probably from earlier literal sense "condition of being deflected or turned" (1530s), from bent (adj.) "not straight" (q.v.).ETD bent (n.1).2

    benthos (n.)

    "life forms of the deep ocean and sea floor," 1891, coined by Haeckel from Greek benthos "depth of the sea," which is related to bathos "depth," bathys "deep, high;" which probably is Indo-European but of unknown origin. As an adjective, benthal is attested from 1877; benthic from 1902.ETD benthos (n.).2

    benumb (v.)

    "deprive of sensation," late 15c., from be- + numb. Originally of mental states; of the physical body from 1520s. Related: Benumbed; benumbing.ETD benumb (v.).2

    benzaldehyde (n.)

    "The oil of bitter almonds, ... a colorless liquid having a pleasant odor and soluble in water" [Century Dictionary], 1866, from German benzaldehyd; see benzene + aldehyde.ETD benzaldehyde (n.).2

    Benzedrine (n.)

    trade name of a type of amphetamine, 1933, registered as a proprietary name 1935 by Smith, Kline & French Laboratories, from benzoic (see benzene) + chemical suffix -edrine from ephedrine, etc. It is a carbonate of benzyl-methyl-carbinamine. Slang shortening benny is attested by 1955.ETD Benzedrine (n.).2

    benzene (n.)

    clear, colorless liquid used as a solvent, 1835, benzine, altered from German Benzin, coined in 1833 by German chemist Eilhardt Mitscherlich (1794-1863) from Benz(oesäure) "benzoic acid" + -in, indicating "derived from" (see -ine (2)). Mitscherlich obtained it from a distillation of benzoic acid, obtained from benzoin. The form benzene (with hydrocarbon suffix -ene) was proposed in 1835 and began to be used from 1838 in English, but in mid-19c. it also commonly was called benzol, with ending from alcohol.ETD benzene (n.).2

    benzine (n.)

    original name of benzene (q.v.). By 1864 as the name of a different substance, a colorless liquid obtained from the distillation of petroleum.ETD benzine (n.).2


    word-forming element in chemistry, from benzene.ETD benzo-.2

    benzodiazepine (n.)

    1934, from benzo-, word-forming element used in chemistry to indicate presence of a benzene ring fused with another ring, + di + azo- + epine, a suffix denoting a seven-membered ring, from Greek hepta (see seven).ETD benzodiazepine (n.).2

    benzoic (adj.)

    "pertaining to or obtained from benzoin, 1790, from benzoin + -ic.ETD benzoic (adj.).2

    benzoin (n.)

    balsamic resin obtained from a tree (Styrax benzoin) of Indonesia, 1560s (earlier as bengewine, 1550s), from French benjoin (16c.), which comes via Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian from Arabic luban jawi "incense of Java" (actually Sumatra, but the Arabs confused the two), with lu probably mistaken in Romance languages for a definite article. The English form with -z- is perhaps from influence of Italian benzoi (Venetian, 1461).ETD benzoin (n.).2


    Old English beo wulf, literally "bee-wolf," "a wolf to bees;" a kenning for "bear." See bee (n.) + wolf (n.).ETD Beowulf.2

    bepester (v.)

    "plague, harass," c. 1600, from be- + pester (v.). Related: Bepestered; bepestering.ETD bepester (v.).2

    bepuzzle (v.)

    "perplex," 1590s, from be- + puzzle (v.). Related: Bepuzzled; bepuzzling.ETD bepuzzle (v.).2

    bequeath (v.)

    Old English becweðan "to say, speak to, exhort, blame," also "leave by will;" from be- + cweðan "to say," from Proto-Germanic *kwithan (see quoth). The simple verb cweðan became obsolete, but its old, strong past tense survived through Middle English as quoth.ETD bequeath (v.).2

    The original sense of "say, utter" died out 13c., leaving the word with only the legal sense of "transfer by legacy." Compare bequest. "An old word kept alive in wills" [OED 1st ed.]. Old English bequeðere meant "interpreter, translator." Related: Bequeathed; bequeathing.ETD bequeath (v.).3

    bequest (n.)

    c. 1300, "act of bequeathing," from be- + *cwis, *cwiss "saying" (related to quoth, from Proto-Germanic *kwessiz, from PIE root *gwet- "to say, speak"). Also compare bequeath. With unetymological -t (as in behest). The meaning "legacy, that which is bequeathed" is recorded from late 15c.ETD bequest (n.).2

    berate (v.)

    "to scold vehemently," 1540s, from be- "thoroughly" + Middle English rate "to scold" (late 14c.), from Old French reter "accuse, blame," from Latin reputare "reflect upon, reckon, count over," from re- "repeatedly" (see re-) + putare "to judge, suppose, believe, suspect," originally "to clean, trim, prune" (from PIE root *pau- (2) "to cut, strike, stamp"). "Obsolete except in U.S." [OED 1st ed.], but it seems to have revived in Britain 20c. Related: Berated; berating.ETD berate (v.).2


    1820 (n.); 1832 (adj.), from the Arabic name for the peoples living in the mountains and deserts of North Africa west of Egypt; perhaps ultimately from Greek barbaros "barbarians" (see Barbary). By 1854 as the name of their Hamitic language.ETD Berber.2

    berceuse (n.)

    "lullaby, cradle song," 1860, from French berceuse "cradle-song, woman who rocks an infant," from bercer "to rock" (Old French bercier "to rock" a child in a cradle, 12c.) + fem. agent suffix -euse.ETD berceuse (n.).2


    strait and sea between Alaska and Siberia, named for Danish explorer Vitus Bering, who worked for Peter the Great and led the first European expedition to sight Alaska, in 1741.ETD Bering.2


    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.ETD Berean.2

    bereavement (n.)

    "grievous loss," especially the death of a friend or close relation, 1731, from bereave + -ment.ETD bereavement (n.).2

    bereave (v.)

    Middle English bireven, from Old English bereafian "to deprive of, take away by violence, seize, rob," from be- + reafian "rob, plunder," from Proto-Germanic *raubōjanan, from PIE *runp- "to break" (see corrupt (adj.)). A common Germanic formation; compare Old Frisian biravia "despoil, rob, deprive (someone of something)," Old Saxon biroban, Dutch berooven, Old High German biroubon, German berauben, Gothic biraubon.ETD bereave (v.).2

    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.ETD bereave (v.).3

    bereft (adj.)

    late 14c., past-participle adjective from bereave (v.).ETD bereft (adj.).2


    fem. proper name, from Latin Berenice, from Macedonian Greek Berenikē (classical Greek Pherenikē), literally "bringer of victory," from pherein "to bring" (from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry") + nikē "victory" (see Nike).ETD Berenice.2

    The constellation Berenice's Hair (Coma Berenices) is from the story of the pilfered amber 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 as Berenice's Hair, 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.ETD Berenice.3

    beret (n.)

    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.ETD beret (n.).2

    Beretta (n.)

    Italian firearms manufacturer; the business is attested from 1520s, founded by gunsmith Bartolomeo Beretta (1498-1565) of Lombardy.ETD Beretta (n.).2

    berg (n.)

    short for iceberg, attested from 1819.ETD berg (n.).2

    bergamot (n.)

    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.ETD bergamot (n.).2

    Earlier (1610s) it was the name for 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).ETD bergamot (n.).3

    beriberi (n.)

    also beri-beri, paralytic disease prevalent in much of India, 1703, literally "great weakness," intensifying reduplication of Sinhalese beri "weakness."ETD beriberi (n.).2

    berk (n.)

    "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.ETD berk (n.).2


    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.ETD Berkeley.2


    Old English Bearrocscir (893), from an ancient Celtic name meaning "hilly place" + Old English scir "shire, district."ETD Berkshire.2


    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.ETD Berlin.2

    berlin (n.)

    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.ETD berlin (n.).2

    berm (n.)

    "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).ETD berm (n.).2


    Atlantic island, named for Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez(d.1570), who discovered it c. 1515.ETD Bermuda.2

    Bermuda shorts is attested by 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, Bermudian (1777) holds seniority over Bermudan (1895).ETD Bermuda.3


    Swiss capital, probably originally from PIE *ber- "marshy place," but by folk etymology from German Bär "bear" (compare Berlin). Related: Bernese.ETD Bern.2


    masc. proper name, from German Bernhard, literally "bold as a bear," from Old High German bero "bear" (see bear (n.)) + harti "hard, bold, strong" (from PIE root *kar- "hard"). Saint Bernard (1091-1153) was the famous Cistercian monk; the breed of Alpine mastiff dogs is said to have been so called from early 18c. (in English by 1839), because the monks of the hospice named for him in the pass of St. Bernard (between Italy and Switzerland) sent them to rescue snowbound travelers.ETD Bernard.2


    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: BerenicianETD Bernicia.2

    Bernoulli's principle

    named for Dutch mathematician Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782), who published it in 1738. The family produced several noted mathematicians.ETD Bernoulli's principle.2

    berry (n.)

    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.ETD berry (n.).2

    berserker (n.)

    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).ETD berserker (n.).2

    berserk (adj.)

    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."ETD berserk (adj.).2

    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).ETD berserk (adj.).3

    berth (n.)

    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. The original sense is preserved in the figurative phrase give (something or someone) wide berth "keep well away from." The meaning "place on a ship to stow chests and for sailors to sleep" is from 1706; it was extended to non-nautical situations by 1778.ETD berth (n.).2

    berth (v.)

    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.ETD berth (v.).2


    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.ETD Bertha.2

    beryl (n.)

    hard, lustrous mineral occurring in hexagonal prisms, c. 1300, from Old French beryl (12c., Modern French béryl), from Latin beryllus, from Greek bēryllos, 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.ETD beryl (n.).2

    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.ETD beryl (n.).3

    beryllium (n.)

    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 and first isolated in 1828. With metallic element ending -ium. At first and until c. 1900 it was also sometimes called glucinum or glucinium.ETD beryllium (n.).2

    beseeching (n.)

    "supplication, prayer," c. 1300, verbal noun from beseech. As a present-participle adjective from 1704. Related: Beseechingly; beseechingness.ETD beseeching (n.).2

    beseech (v.)

    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 2nd. ed. print, 1989]. Cognate with Old Frisian biseka "deny, dispute," 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.ETD beseech (v.).2

    beseem (v.)

    early 13c., "to seem; to be seemly," from be- + seem (v.). Related: Beseemed; beseeming.ETD beseem (v.).2

    beseeming (adj.)

    1520s, present-participle adjective from beseem. Related: Beseemingly.ETD beseeming (adj.).2

    beset (v.)

    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.ETD beset (v.).2

    beshrew (v.)

    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.ETD beshrew (v.).2

    beside (prep., adv.)

    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 used both as adverb and preposition. The alternative Middle English meaning "outside" is preserved in beside oneself "out of one's wits" (late 15c.).ETD beside (prep., adv.).2

    besides (prep.)

    attested from c. 1200, common after c. 1400, from beside (q.v.) + adverbial genitive -s. Once sharing all the senses of beside, it is now properly limited to the adverbial meaning "in addition to, otherwise." Colloquial shortening 'sides is attested by 1570s.ETD besides (prep.).2

    besiege (v.)

    "lay siege to," c. 1300, from be- + siege. Related: Besieged; besieging.ETD besiege (v.).2

    besmear (v.)

    Old English bismierwan, besmyrwan (West Saxon), besmerwan (Anglian); see be- + smear (v.). Related: Besmeared; besmearing.ETD besmear (v.).2

    besmirch (v.)

    "to soil with soot or mud, to sully," now usually figurative, 1590s, from be- + smirch.ETD besmirch (v.).2

    Related: Besmirched; besmirching.ETD besmirch (v.).3

    besom (n.)

    Middle English besme, from Old English besma "bundle of twigs" (used as a broom or a flail), from West Germanic *besman- (source also of Old Frisian besma "rod, birch," Old Saxon besmo, Old High German besmo "broom, besom," German Besen, Dutch bezem), which is of unknown origin, possibly from a non-IE substrate language.ETD besom (n.).2

    besot (v.)

    "affect with a foolish manifestation," 1570s, from be- + sot. Related: Besotted; besotting.ETD besot (v.).2

    besotted (adj.)

    "stupid, infatuated," 1570s, past-participle adjective from besot. Related: Besottedness.ETD besotted (adj.).2


    Middle English besohte, past tense and past participle of beseech.ETD besought.2

    bespangle (v.)

    "adorn with small, glittering objects," 1610s, from be- + spangle. Related: Bespangled; bespangling.ETD bespangle (v.).2

    bespatter (v.)

    "soil by splashing with dirty liquid," 1640s, from be- + spatter (v.). Related: Bespattered; bespattering.ETD bespatter (v.).2

    bespeak (v.)

    Middle English bispeken, from 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), meaning originally "to call out." It evolved a wide range of meaning in English, including "speak up," "oppose," "request," "discuss, "arrange," and "order (goods)" (1580s).ETD bespeak (v.).2

    Related: Bespeaking; bespoke.ETD bespeak (v.).3

    bespeckle (v.)

    "to mark with spots," c. 1600, from be- + speckle. Related: Bespeckled; bespeckling.ETD bespeckle (v.).2

    bespectacled (adj.)

    "wearing eyeglasses," 1742; see be- + spectacles.ETD bespectacled (adj.).2

    bespoke (adj.)

    "custom or custom-made, made to order," of goods (as distinguished from ready-made), 1755, the same sense is found earlier in bespoken (c. 1600), past-participle adjective from bespeak in its sense of "speak for, arrange beforehand," which is attested in bespeak from 1580s. Now usually of tailored suits.ETD bespoke (adj.).2

    bespread (v.)

    "to spread over, cover with," c. 1200, from be- + spread (v.).ETD bespread (v.).2

    besprinkle (v.)

    "to sprinkle over," mid-15c., from be- + sprinkle (v.). Related: Besprinkled; besprinkling.ETD besprinkle (v.).2


    old name for the region of Eastern Europe that now mostly is the nation of Moldova, probably from Besarab, a dynastic name of Wallachian princes, said to be from Turkish basar. Related: Bessarabian.ETD Bessarabia.2

    Bessemer (adj.)

    by 1856 in reference to the process for decarbonizing and desiliconizing pig iron by passing air through the molten metal, named for engineer and inventor Sir Harry Bessemer (1813-1898) who invented it.ETD Bessemer (adj.).2

    best (n.)

    c. 1200, "that which is best," from best (adj.). From c. 1300 as "all that one can do;" 1570s as "highest possible state." From 1790 as "best clothes."ETD best (n.).2

    At best "in the utmost degree" is from early 14c. For the best "tending to the best results" is from late 14c. To make the best of "use to best advantage" is from 1620s; to get or have the best of "the advantage over" (in a contest, etc.) is from 1640s. To be able to do something with the best of them is recorded by 1748.ETD best (n.).3

    best (v.)

    "to get the better of, outdo, surpass," 1863, from best (adj.). Related: Bested; besting.ETD best (v.).2

    best (adj.)

    Old English beste, reduced by assimilation of -t- from earlier Old English betst "of the highest quality or standing, first, in the best manner." This originally was the superlative of bōt "remedy, reparation" (Middle English bote "advantage, help, profit"), a word now surviving in its simple form only in the expression to boot (see boot (n.2)). Its comparative, better, and superlative, best, have been transferred to good (and in some cases well).ETD best (adj.).2

    Old English bōt is from Proto-Germanic root *bat-, with comparative *batizon and superlative *batistaz. The superlative form is the source also of Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Middle Dutch best, Old High German bezzist, German best, Old Norse beztr, Gothic batists. Also in Old English as an adverb, "in the most excellent manner."ETD best (adj.).3

    From late Old English as "of greatest advantage, most suitable." Best-seller as short for "best-selling book" is from 1889, apparently originally in the publishing trade; best friend was in Chaucer (late 14c.). Best girl is attested by 1881, American English; best man is 1814, originally Scottish, replacing groomsman.ETD best (adj.).4

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