Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb \ˈbēt\

Simple Definition of beat

  • : to hit (something) repeatedly

  • : to hit (someone) repeatedly in order to cause pain or injury

  • : to hit (a drum) repeatedly in order to produce music or a signal

Full Definition of beat

beatbeat·en play \ˈbē-tən\ or beatbeat·ing

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to strike repeatedly: a :  to hit repeatedly so as to inflict pain —often used with up b :  to walk on :  tread <beat the pavement looking for work> c :  to strike directly against forcefully and repeatedly :  dash against d :  to flap or thrash at vigorously e :  to strike at in order to rouse game; also :  to range over in or as if in quest of game f :  to mix by stirring :  whip —often used with up g :  to strike repeatedly in order to produce music or a signal <beat a drum>

  3. 2 a :  to drive or force by blows <beat back his attackers> b :  to pound into a powder, paste, or pulp c :  to make by repeated treading or driving over <beat a path> d (1) :  to dislodge by repeated hitting <beat dust from the carpet> (2) :  to lodge securely by repeated striking <beat a stake into the ground> e :  to shape by beating <beat swords into plowshares>; especially :  to flatten thin by blows f :  to sound or express especially by drumbeat

  4. 3 :  to cause to strike or flap repeatedly <a bird beating its wings>

  5. 4 a :  overcome, defeat; also :  surpass —often used with out b :  to prevail despite <beat the odds> c :  bewilder, baffle <it beats me how she does it> d (1) :  fatigue, exhaust (2) :  to leave dispirited, irresolute, or hopeless e :  cheat, swindle

  6. 5 a (1) :  to act ahead of usually so as to forestall (2) :  to report a news item in advance of b :  to come or arrive before c :  circumvent <beat the system> d :  to outmaneuver (a defender) and get free e :  to score against (a goalkeeper)

  7. 6 :  to indicate by beating <beat the tempo>

  8. intransitive verb
  9. 1 a :  to become forcefully impelled :  dash b :  to glare or strike with oppressive intensity c :  to sustain distracting activity d :  to beat a drum

  10. 2 a (1) :  pulsate, throb (2) :  tick b :  to sound upon being struck

  11. 3 a :  to strike repeated blows <beating on the door> b :  to strike the air :  flap c :  to strike cover in order to rouse game; also :  to range or scour for or as if for game

  12. 4 :  to progress with much difficulty

  13. 5 :  to sail to windward by a series of tacks

beat·able play \ˈbē-tə-bəl\ adjective
beat about the bush or beat around the bush
  1. :  to fail or refuse to come to the point in discourse

beat a retreat
  1. :  to leave in haste

beat it
  1. 1 :  to hurry away :  scram

  2. 2 :  hurry, rush

beat one's brains out
  1. :  to try intently to resolve something difficult by thinking

beat the bushes
  1. :  to search thoroughly through all possible areas

beat the drum
  1. :  to proclaim as meritorious or significant :  publicize vigorously

beat the pants off
  1. :  to defeat or surpass overwhelmingly

beat the rap
  1. :  to evade the penalties connected with an accusation or charge

beat up on
  1. :  to attack physically or verbally

to beat the band
  1. :  in a very energetic or forceful manner <talking away to beat the band>

Examples of beat

  1. He beat the dust out of the rug with a stick.

  2. She used a hammer to beat the metal into shape.

  3. She used a hammer to beat the nail into the wall.

  4. The dented metal was beaten flat.

  5. The waves were beating the shore.

  6. He beat at the door with his fists.

  7. The waves were beating on the shore.

  8. The rain beat on the roof.

  9. They beat him with clubs.

  10. a man accused of beating his wife

Origin of beat

Middle English beten, from Old English bēatan; akin to Old High German bōzan to beat

First Known Use: before 12th century




Definition of beat

  1. 1 a :  a single stroke or blow especially in a series; also :  pulsation, tick b :  a sound produced by or as if by beating c :  a driving impact or force

  2. 2 :  one swing of the pendulum or balance of a timepiece

  3. 3 a :  a regularly traversed round <the cop on the beat> b :  a group of news sources that a reporter covers regularly

  4. 4 a :  a metrical or rhythmic stress in poetry or music or the rhythmic effect of these stresses b :  the tempo indicated (as by a conductor) to a musical performer c :  the pronounced rhythm that is the characteristic driving force in some types of music (as jazz or rock); also :  2rock 2

  5. 5 a :  one that excels <I've never seen the beat of it> b :  the reporting of a news story ahead of competitors

  6. 6 :  deadbeat

  7. 7 a :  an act of beating to windward b :  one of the reaches so traversed :  tack

  8. 8 :  each of the pulsations of amplitude produced by the union of sound or radio waves or electric currents having different frequencies

  9. 9 :  an accented stroke (as of one leg or foot against the other) in dancing

  10. 10 :  moment <waited a beat before responding>

beat·less play \-ləs\ adjective

Circa 1625

First Known Use of beat

circa 1625




Simple Definition of beat

  • : very tired

Full Definition of beat

  1. 1 a :  being in a state of exhaustion :  exhausted b :  sapped of resolution or morale

  2. 2 often capitalized :  of, relating to, or being beatniks <beat poets>

Examples of beat

  1. Let me sit down. I'm absolutely beat!

  2. <can we pick this up tomorrow, because I'm beat?>

Origin of beat

Middle English beten, bete, from past participle of beten

First Known Use: 1800




Definition of beat

  1. :  beatnik


First Known Use of beat


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up beat? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 8, 2016

to clear from accusation or blame

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

kittly-benders pince-nez duvet spindrift
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.