prefix be-

Discussion in 'English Only' started by milan55, May 31, 2008.

  1. milan55 Senior Member

    I have recently read somewhere that verbs starting with the prefix be- are fading from the English spoken language. Is that true ??? What about words as " to befall, to bereave, to bedew, to bestride, to bestrew, to belie, to benumb, to betoken or behoof ...."

    Is there still anybody using them actively ??? And what about young people (I mean people without any special education)...Do they understand them at all ??? Or are those words really the vocabulary of our great-grandparents and grandparents ???

  2. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    What you say, Milan, may contain a grain of truth, but some of the words you mention are alive and kicking:

    Befall: common, but a bit literary, perhaps.
    Bereave: common.
    Bedew: unusual, but then it's an unusual idea.
    Bestride: a bit unusual. Cleopatra says of Anthony in Shakespeare's play: 'His legs bestrid the ocean, his rear'd arm crested the world' or words to that effect, which colours it for a lot of people.
    Bestrew: a little unusual.
    Belie: quite common in educated language.
    Benumb: ditto.
    Betoken: a bit precious, but one hears it.
    Behoof: I don't know. I've never heard it. Do you mean behove, which is rather literary.

    Those are my reactions to the words.
  3. Cagey post mod

    English - US
    According to, this prefix was especially productive of new words in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is no longer so common to create new words with this prefix but many such words still exist and are commonly and understood by people without "special education": become, besiege, befriend.

    For an earlier discussion of the prefix, see: verbs beginning with "be". (Notice beginning.)

    Edit: TT's informative post intervened.

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