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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Besom \Be"som\, n. [OE. besme, besum, AS. besma; akin to D. bezem, OHG pesamo, G. besen; of uncertain origin.] A brush of twigs for sweeping; a broom; anything which sweeps away or destroys. [Archaic or Fig.]

I will sweep it with the besom of destruction.
--Isa. xiv. 23.

The housemaid with her besom.
--W. Irving.


Besom \Be"som\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Besomed.] To sweep, as with a besom. [Archaic or Poetic]

Rolls back all Greece, and besoms wide the plain.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

Old English besma "bundle of twigs" (used as a broom or a flail), from West Germanic *besmon (cognates: Old Frisian besma, Old Saxon besmo, Old High German besmo, German Besen, Dutch bezem), which is of unknown origin. Perhaps "something bound or twisted," from PIE *bheidh-.


n. 1 A broom made from a bundle of twigs tied onto a shaft. 2 (label en Scotland Northern England derogatory) A troublesome woman vb. (context archaic poetic English) To sweep.


n. a broom made of twigs tied together on a long handle


Besom is a dialectal or historical word for what is now known as a broom, a household implement used for sweeping. The term "besom" is now mostly reserved for a "traditionally constructed" broom, made from a bundle of twigs tied to a stouter pole. The twigs used could be broom (i.e. Genista, whence the modern name "broom" for the tool), heather or similar. The song " Buy Broom Buzzems" from Northern England refers to both types of twig. From the phrase broom besom the more common broom comes.

Usage examples of "besom".

Then he saw himself again, sweeping the natives out of South Africa with the relentless besom of his might, and ruling unquestioned over a submissive people.

He could imagine the flaming besom from the sky that they saw descending, flaying and withering them, laying corpses as in windrows, and he shuddered.

Then, just as he felt that he must either founder or struggle in to take his chances upon shore, a besom of flame struck down from the sky and swept the beach clean before him, leaving only a burst of seared, exploded bodies and clouds of greasy smoke.

Will and Bran pulled them out: besoms made like those for old-fashioned sweeping, but with the twigs longer and wider-spread.

Foma felt their daring audacity, their biting sarcasm, their passionate malice, and he was as well pleased with them as though he had been scourged with besoms in a hot bath.

FIRST CITIZEN Napoleon's army swarms with tender youth, His last conscription besomed into it Thousands of merest boys.

He caught no more than a glimpse of the top of her head among the crowd on the terraceshe wouldn't wear a proper cap, of course, the stubborn wee besom, but had some foolishness pinned on instead, a scrap of lace caught up with a cluster of ribbons and rose hips.

It was a good rye-straw broom, not a twig besom like those some folks in Barca's Hamlet used because they were sturdier and lasted longer.