views updated

be- pref. OE. be-, weak var. of BY, varying in cognate comps. with bī-, e.g. begān surround, begang and bīgeng circuit; = OS. be-, bī́, OHG. bī́- (G. be-, bei-). The main uses are:
A. with verbs, meaning
1.. ‘around, on all sides’, ‘to and fro, in all ways’, as beset, besmear, bestrew (mod. Eng. are bedaub, besmirch);

2.. ‘thoroughly, extremely’, as beseech (early ME.);

3.. ‘off, away’, as behead;

4.. ‘about, over’ (lit. and fig.), as OE. beġēotan sprinkle, bethink;

B. with sbs. and adjs. ‘so as to make what is expressed by them’, as becalm (XVI), befoul (XIV);

C. with sbs. ‘surround or envelop with’, ‘affect with’, as befog (XVII), benight (XVI);

D. with ppl. adjs., often combining uses A (2) and C, as bedabbled, bemused (both mod. Eng.).