be

verb \ ˈbē \

Definition of be

past tense first- and third-person singular was play \ˈwəz, ˈwäz\; past tense second-person singular were play \ˈwər\; past tense plural were; past subjunctive were; past participle been play \ˈbin, ˈben, chiefly British ˈbēn\; present participle being play \ˈbē(-i)ŋ\; present tense first-person singular am play \əm, ˈam\; present tense second-person singular are play \ˈär, ər\; present tense third-person singular is play \ˈiz, əz\; present tense plural are; present subjunctive be
intransitive verb
1 a : to equal in meaning : have the same connotation as : symbolize
  • God is love
  • January is the first month
  • let x be 10
b : to have identity with : to constitute the same idea or object as
  • The first person I met was my brother.
c : to constitute the same class as
  • These three books are the authoritative works on the president's life.
d : to have a specified qualification or characterization
  • The leaves are green.
e : to belong to the class of
  • the fish is a trout
  • Keeping this room clean is your responsibility.
used regularly in senses 1a through 1e as the copula of simple predication
2 a : to have an objective existence : have reality or actuality : live
  • I think, therefore I am
b : to have, maintain, or occupy a place, situation, or position
  • the book is on the table
c : to remain unmolested, undisturbed, or uninterrupted used only in infinitive form
  • let him be
d : to take place : occur
  • the concert was last night
e : to come or go
  • has already been and gone
  • has never been to the circus
f archaic : belong, befall
  • … to thine and Albany's issue be this perpetual.
  • —Shakespeare
auxiliary verb
1 used with the past participle of transitive verbs as a passive-voice auxiliary
  • the money was found
  • the house is being built
2 used as the auxiliary of the present participle in progressive tenses expressing continuous action
  • he is reading
  • I have been sleeping
3 used with the past participle of some intransitive verbs as an auxiliary forming archaic perfect tenses
  • … Christ is risen from the dead …
  • —1 Corinthians 15:20 (Douay Version)
4 used with the infinitive with to to express futurity, arrangement in advance, or obligation
  • I am to interview him today
  • she was to become famous

Examples of be in a Sentence

  1. stories that begin with the familiar line “once upon a time there was a beautiful maiden”

  2. we'll be there waiting for you

Recent Examples of be from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'be.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of be

Middle English, from Old English bēon; akin to Old High German bim am, Latin fui I have been, futurus about to be, fieri to become, be done, Greek phynai to be born, be by nature, phyein to produce

1

Be

symbol

Definition of Be

beryllium

2

abbreviation

Definition of

Baumé

BE

abbreviation

Definition of BE

1 bachelor of education
2 bachelor of engineering
3 bill of exchange
4 Black English

be-

prefix

Definition of be-

1 : on : around : over
  • besmear
2 : to a great or greater degree : thoroughly
  • befuddle
3 : excessively : ostentatiously in intensive verbs formed from simple verbs
  • bedeck
and in adjectives based on adjectives ending in -ed
  • beribboned
4 : about : to : at : upon : against : across
  • bestride
5 : make : cause to be : treat as
  • belittle
  • befriend
6 : call or dub especially excessively
  • bedoctor
7 : affect, afflict, treat, provide, or cover with especially excessively
  • bedevil
  • befog

Origin and Etymology of be-

Middle English, from Old English bi-, be-; akin to Old English by, near — more at by


BE Defined for English Language Learners

be

verb

Definition of be for English Language Learners

  • —used to indicate the identity of a person or thing

  • —used to describe the qualities of a person or thing

  • —used to indicate the condition of a person or thing


be-

prefix

Definition of be- for English Language Learners

  • : make : cause to be : treat as

  • : about

  • : in a way that is easy to notice


BE Defined for Kids

be

verb \ \

Definition of be for Students

past first person & third person singular was \wəz, ˈwəz, wäz\; second person singular were \wər, ˈwər\; plural were; past subjunctive were; past participle been \bin\; present participle being \ˈbē-iŋ\; present first person singular am \əm, am\; second person singular are \ər, är\; third person singular is \iz, əz\; plural are; present subjunctive be
1 : to equal in meaning or identity
  • She is my neighbor.
2 : to have a specified character, quality, or condition
  • The leaves are green.
  • How are you? I am fine.
3 : to belong to the group or class of
  • Apes are mammals.
4 : to exist or live
  • Once there was a brave knight.
5 : to occupy a place, situation, or position
  • The book is on the table.
6 : to take place
  • The concert was last night.
7 : 1cost 1
8 used as a helping verb with other verbs
  • The ball was thrown.

be-

prefix

Definition of be- for Students

1 : on : around : over
2 : provide with or cover with : dress up with
  • bewhiskered
3 : about : to : upon
  • bemoan
4 : make : cause to be
  • belittle
  • befriend

Medical Dictionary

abbreviation

medical Definition of

Baumé

Be

symbol

medical Definition of Be

beryllium

BE

abbreviation

medical Definition of BE

1 barium enema
2 below elbow
3 board-eligible


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

sticky or viscid

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!