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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ a bejeweled woman
▪ He befriended me.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Be- \Be-\ [AS. be, and in accented form b[=i], akin to OS. be and b[=i], OHG. bi, pi, and p[=i], MHG. be and b[=i], G. be and bei, Goth. bi, and perh. Gr. 'amfi` about (cf. AS. bese['o]n to look about). [root]203. Cf. By, Amb-.] A prefix, originally the same word as by; joined with verbs, it serves:

  1. To intensify the meaning; as, bespatter, bestir.

  2. To render an intransitive verb transitive; as, befall (to fall upon); bespeak (to speak for).

  3. To make the action of a verb particular or definite; as, beget (to get as offspring); beset (to set around).

    Note: It is joined with certain substantives, and a few adjectives, to form verbs; as, bedew, befriend, benight, besot; belate (to make late); belittle (to make little). It also occurs in certain nouns, adverbs, and prepositions, often with something of the force of the preposition by, or about; as, belief (believe), behalf, bequest (bequeath); because, before, beneath, beside, between. In some words the original force of be is obscured or lost; as, in become, begin, behave, behoove, belong.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

word-forming element with a wide range of meaning: "thoroughly, completely; to make, cause seem; to provide with; at, on, to, for," from Old English be- "on all sides" (also used to make transitive verbs and as a privative or intensive prefix), from weak form of Old English bi "by," probably cognate with second syllable of Greek amphi, Latin ambi and originally meaning "about" (see ambi-).\n

\nThis sense naturally drifted into intensive (as in bespatter "spatter about," therefore "spatter very much"). Be- can also be privative (as in behead), 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), betongue "to assail in speech, to scold" (1630s).


pre. 1 (context rare or no longer productive English) by, near, next to, around, close to. 2 (context rare or no longer productive English) around; about. 3 (context rare or no longer productive English) about, regarding, concerning, over. 4 (context rare or no longer productive English) on, upon, at, to, in contact with something. 5 (context rare or no longer productive English) off, away, over, across 6 (context rare or no longer productive English) As an intensifier; i.e. thoroughly, excessively; completely; utterly. 7 (context rare or no longer productive English) All around; about; abundantly; all over. 8 (context rare or no longer productive English) (non-gloss definition: Forming verbs derived from nouns or adjectives, usually with the sense of "to make, become, or cause to be".) 9 (context archaic or informal English) {{non-gloss definition|Used to intensify adjectives meaning "adorned with something" often those with the suffix (term: -ed)}}.

Usage examples of "be-".

He bowed gracefully to the eight in front of him, to the Council behind him, and presented a much be-medaled slate to the secretary.

There were things you could not say to a cruiser captain, however dear to your heart she was, jokes she would never get, ideas be-yond her scope.

We 've been excluded from far more sessions than we ought to be--sessions that have been attended by some of the most antagonis tic Right Mutes that have ever been lined up against Talents.

She had once considered the performing arts the be-all and end-all of ambition.

She glanced at Torkel inquisitively and with just a tad of something Yana took to be-well, not hostility, but suspicion.

And now Luzon was intimating that the creatures might be--well, psychic!

There were, however, bunks and cabins aboard the Baby, which must have been Zainal's thought be-cause he landed in the clearing he had used before, not all that far from their cabin.

Someone did produce a silk scarf for her and she spent time in front of a mir-ror deciding how to tie and drape it-her longing for pretty and be-coming things quite obvious to others in the room.

And any and all rock squats we can acquire be-tween now and tomorrow morning at oh-nine hundred, when I hope we'll have the required permission to take off.

Then suddenly it smoothed out and the spaceship was running east with the patchwork of the midwestern states passing be-neath them at incredible speed.

Zainal had Kathy bring the craft down to a mere ten feet be-fore radioing the tower.

Peran and Bazil made courteous bows and offered limp hands to the coord, who smiled be-nignly at them.

They would see how things went be-fore they offered the fruits in the market.

Kapash continued to look dismayed, but a flicker of thought be-hind his eyes told Zainal that, not only was the man fond of his cof-fee, but he would also wish to enjoy it without stint.

And as everyone else in the compartment realized that they were being transported be-yond hope or help, their moans and weeping were pathetic as well as contagious, and Kris caught back a sob in her own throat.