\ ˈbēd How to pronounce bead (audio) \

Definition of bead

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a obsolete : prayer usually used in plural
b beads plural : a series of prayers and meditations made with a rosary
2 : a small piece of material pierced for threading on a string or wire (as in a rosary)
3 beads plural
a : rosary
b : a necklace of beads or pearls
4 : a small ball-shaped body: such as
a : a drop of sweat or blood
b : a bubble formed in or on a beverage
c : a small metal knob on a firearm used as a front sight
d : a blob or a line of weld metal
5 : a projecting rim, band, or molding
6 : a precise knowledge or understanding used in such phrases as get a bead on


beaded; beading; beads

Definition of bead (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to furnish, adorn, or cover with beads or beading
2 : to string together like beads

intransitive verb

: to form into a bead

Other Words from bead


beader noun

Synonyms for bead

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did you know?

The beads you might wear around your neck once represented prayers. The Middle English word bede at first meant “a prayer.” People then, as now, often kept track of the number and order of a series of prayers with the help of a string of little balls. Because each of these balls stands for a prayer, the word bede came to be used for the balls themselves. Today this same word, now spelled bead, is used to refer to any small piece of material with a hole in it for threading on a string or wire.

Examples of bead in a Sentence

Noun Beads of sweat began rolling down their faces. squeeze a bead or two of glue onto the seam
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Lila earrings by Shrimps are crafted with a delicate porcelain bead, hand-painted with a yellow flower and green leaves, suspended from a gold metal hoop. Angela Lei, Forbes, 5 May 2022 There's also a 3.5-inch brim for keeping away the sun and an adjustable faux-leather chin cord, paired with a wooden bead, for keeping it on your head. Rena Behar, Travel + Leisure, 5 May 2022 The resident strongwoman, Luella Lynne, dressed like a game-show hostess in a shimmering sequin dress and high heels, proceeded to bend steel bars and break shackles with her bare hands, with nary a bead of sweat. David Hill, Harper’s Magazine , 27 Apr. 2022 Eight small, bead-like carpal bones connect to the two lower-arm bones—the ulna and the radius—and to the metacarpal bones of the hand. Esther Smith, Outside Online, 8 Aug. 2021 Amed Rosario, the shortstop playing left field, drew a bead on the ball, but the strong wind blowing from left to right pushed the ball into the gap. Paul Hoynes, cleveland, 7 Apr. 2022 The Squid Game nominee wore a gold dress with bustle detailing and crystal and silver-bead embroidery from Nicolas Ghesquière’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection for Louis Vuitton. Laurie Brookins, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Mar. 2022 For starters, the dreadful contemplation of showers of metallic-bead goo spewing from a hole on the surface of the moon and forming tentacular monsters of deadly dexterity is both ludicrous and eerie—what is in there? Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 4 Feb. 2022 In New Smyrna Beach, Florida, a 17-year-old student shot school employee in face with a gel bead. Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press, 25 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb My sister and my cousins have all learned how to sew or bead the Ojibwe way, thanks to the guidance of our talented aunties (intricate floral beadwork is an Ojibwe signature). Christian Allaire, Vogue, 21 Mar. 2022 The exterior fabric caused water to bead on the surface, so the shorts never got saturated and stayed lightweight. Joe Jackson, Outside Online, 13 July 2015 Regardless of the material, wiper blades leave residue on the windshield; silicone is inherently hydrophobic, which should help water bead off your windshield. Matt Crisara, Popular Mechanics, 19 Oct. 2021 Sweat began to bead on her forehead shortly into the selection as her body rocked and swayed to the beat. Justin L. Mack, The Indianapolis Star, 4 July 2021 Immediately upon seeing Deng’s pieces, Alexandra commissioned her to bead a bag with a watermelon on it — something that Deng had never done before. Eliza Huber,, 7 June 2021 This adds an additional protective barrier, allowing bacterial fluids to bead up and reduce interaction time with the board. Chris Hachey, BGR, 19 May 2021 The durable canvas polyester material allows water to bead on top of the surface instead of soaking in, helping to prevent mildew or musty odors. Jessica Bennett, Better Homes & Gardens, 18 Mar. 2021 The artist got the idea to bead shoes in Peep’s honor last year, when she was commissioned to create a work for the Hood Museum in Hanover, New Hampshire. Christian Allaire, Vogue, 16 Mar. 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of bead


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1577, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for bead


Middle English bede prayer, prayer bead, from Old English bed, gebed prayer; akin to Old English biddan to entreat, pray — more at bid entry 1

Buying Guide

Make your own jewelry for gifts or for yourself with kits chosen by our Reviews team.

Learn More About bead

Time Traveler for bead

Time Traveler

The first known use of bead was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near bead



bead and butt

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for bead

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Bead.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for bead


\ ˈbēd How to pronounce bead (audio) \

Kids Definition of bead

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a small piece of solid material with a hole through it by which it can be strung on a thread
2 : a small round drop of liquid a bead of sweat


beaded; beading

Kids Definition of bead (Entry 2 of 2)

: to decorate or cover with beads a beaded dress His face was beaded with sweat.

More from Merriam-Webster on bead

Nglish: Translation of bead for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bead for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about bead


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Color

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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