\ˈbēd \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from bead


beader noun

Synonyms for bead

Synonyms: Noun

blob, driblet, drip, drop, droplet, glob, globule

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


Beads of sweat began rolling down their faces. squeeze a bead or two of glue onto the seam

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

From king cakes to beads and jazz music, Mardi Gras is well under way in parts of the world and will soon debut at Town Green Park in The Woodlands. Patricia Dillon, Houston Chronicle, "Inaugural Masquerade Woodlands slated for Feb. 24," 15 Feb. 2018 An older guy in his corporate uniform of blue button down and black dress pants wiped a bead of sweat off his brow with a kerchief. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "10 Virgil Abloh Fans Share Their Hopes for His Louis Vuitton Debut," 21 June 2018 Back on the island, one of the men lit a gas burner under a pan and used his bare hand to stir a splash of kerosene into white beads of solid ammonium nitrate. Aurora Almendral, New York Times, "In the Philippines, Dynamite Fishing Decimates Entire Ocean Food Chains," 15 June 2018 To create an even bead, lay parallel strips of painter’s tape above and below the entire length of the tub seam. Daniel Bortz, sacbee, "Four home-improvement jobs you can knock out," 15 June 2018 Her purses were awash in bows, beads, polka dots, rainbow stripes, and oversized prints—a contrarian corrective to the studiously neutral palette of ’90s high fashion. Kimberly Chrisman-campbell, The Atlantic, "Kate Spade’s Unforgettable Designs," 6 June 2018 For merging with, and rising from, the floor like a bead of mercury, there’s James Gowan; for explosive intensity, Babatunji; for queenly clarity, Madeline Devries; for unfurling arms, Shuaib Elhassan. Rachel Howard, San Francisco Chronicle, "Hussain on hand for Lines Ballet’s glorious 35th birthday," 8 Apr. 2018 Half the kick comes from ginger, and the pop from tiny beads of masago (capelin roe). Author: Ligaya Mishan, Anchorage Daily News, "Heading home to Hawaii in search of poke," 10 Jan. 2018 At 21, Kelly Slater looked as if he’d been cloned from a bead of Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock sweat. Matt Warshaw, Outside Online, "The Dominance of Kelly Slater," 5 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Other bags are hand-crocheted or hand-beaded in India, and several are fancy enough to replace your evening clutch. Emily Farra, Vogue, "Summer’s Most Charming Bags Are Made in India, Inspired by Japan, and Arriving in New York Today," 25 June 2018 This is purely a list of useless but fulfilling stuff, like beading). Lena Dunham, Vogue, "Lena Dunham Explores Alone Time After a Break-Up," 11 May 2018 Bling is not restricted to jewelry, as more designers choose to embellish with pearls, beading and even sequins. Tony Bravo, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bridal gown trends veer toward modesty but don’t lack drama," 26 Jan. 2018 His pieces at the moment, are essentially American-made couture: beaded, embroidered or chain linked painstakingly by hand in his New York studio, just a man and a team of interns. New York Times, "New York Men’s Fashion Week: The Mixtape," 11 July 2018 Sampaoli's men cranked it up beading into the 80th and had another shout for a penalty as substitute Cristian Pavon - sent on in place of Angel di Maria - went down in the Iceland box, but the ref was having none of it and didn't even consider VAR., "Argentina 1-1 Iceland: Messi and Co Stunned by Steely Icelandic Side in World Cup Opener," 16 June 2018 Midge Makuch, also in Willington, works in beading and jewelry. Kitty Leshay, Courant Community, "Art And Garden Tour Beckons Lovers Of Beauty," 6 June 2018 That afternoon, the skies opened and rained holy hell down on this teepee and the water beaded and rolled right to the ground. Joanna Saltz, House Beautiful, "Here's How To Make Your Playroom Teepee An Outdoor Playhouse," 6 June 2018 Ebanks told Vogue, fresh off a flight from Los Angeles and wowing the room in a floral beaded Ronald van der Kemp gown that fell perfectly in line with the evening’s Enchanted Garden theme. Zachary Weiss, Vogue, "Selita Ebanks, Donald Robertson Bring Flower Power to the New Yorkers for Children Fool’s Fete," 30 Apr. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about bead

Statistics for bead

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for bead

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for bead



English Language Learners Definition of bead

: a small, usually round piece of glass, wood, stone, etc., that has a hole through its center and that is put on a string with other similar pieces and worn as jewelry or that is sewn onto clothing

: a small, round drop of liquid (such as water or blood)


\ˈbēd \

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on bead

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


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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