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.
NounBeads of sweat began rolling down their faces.
squeeze a bead or two of glue onto the seam
Recent Examples on the Web
Purchasing beads, string, and all the supplies to make friendship bracelets, posting videos of the crafting process, and then sharing or trading the bracelets with other fans at the shows became a movement of its own.—Jia Wertz, Forbes, 27 Nov. 2023 Share [Findings] Ostrich-shell beads indicating the onset of the Initial Upper Paleolithic were found to have reached Shuidonggou by 39000 bc, and strontium isotope levels revealed the social exchange of ostrich-shell beads during the Late Quaternary in the Karoo Supergroup.—Rafil Kroll-Zaidi, Harper's Magazine, 22 Nov. 2023 The 75-year-old jewelry house David Webb produces all of its creations in a townhouse on Madison Avenue, including this necklace made of amethyst, carnelian and carved amber beads strung between white enamel and brilliant-cut diamonds.—Ella Riley-Adams Angela Koh Jameson Montgomery Jameson Montgomery Tom Delavan, New York Times, 16 Nov. 2023 These faux candy canes are made from wooden beads and wire.—Emily Vanschmus, Better Homes & Gardens, 13 Nov. 2023 Some of the props also displayed include Mollie’s bible and rosary beads, Mollie’s pipe and an antique blue ball mason jar.—Jazz Tangcay, Variety, 18 Nov. 2023 The beads come in a reusable kit with individual compartments to help kids stay organized.—Korin Miller, wsj.com, 15 Nov. 2023 In one area there were beads strung together on wires to form lines, squares, and cubes (which turns out to be a great way to convey the difference between x, x2, and x3).—Andrew McAfee, Fortune, 14 Nov. 2023 Most laundry beads—even homemade versions—include essential oils in their ingredients and will melt when exposed to heat.—Mary Cornetta, Better Homes & Gardens, 12 Nov. 2023
Generous amounts of 600-fill-power down make this puffy great in cold weather, and a durable water-repellent coating on the exterior means that this parka beads away rain and snow without trouble.—Alice Bennett, Travel + Leisure, 27 Nov. 2023 Kloss and Kushner first announced that their family was growing a second time at the Met Gala in May, with the model showcasing her bump in a form-fitting black column dress accessorized by lengthy strands of pearls and beading around the waist.—Lizzie Hyman, Peoplemag, 7 Nov. 2023 Pair it with tights, boots, and beaded earrings for a dazzling winter look.—Elle Murphy, Rolling Stone, 26 Oct. 2023 The studs have cute confetti beading through Minnie’s face and ears and a shiny gold bow.—Valerie Marino, Condé Nast Traveler, 23 Oct. 2023 There was also a navy cardigan with loads of bugle beads that my sister had that then was passed down.—Simon Chilvers, Vogue, 9 Oct. 2023 Featuring a keyhole back, One Fab Day reported that the dress was made with French Calais-Caudry lace and covered in flowers beaded with Swarovski crystals and silk organza petals.—Hanna Flanagan, Peoplemag, 6 Oct. 2023 One of the crafts her youngest son took a particular interest in was beading, so Spruill started creating and selling beaded jewelry with him.—Amy Joyce, Washington Post, 26 Sep. 2023 And Blackpink members Jennie, Rosé and Jisoo have worn sequined, beaded and fringed looks during their Born Pink World Tour.—Fawnia Soo Hoo, The Hollywood Reporter, 24 Sep. 2023 See More
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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
First Known Use
before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a
: a small piece of solid material with a hole by which it can be strung on a thread
: a small round mass
beads of perspiration
: a small knob on a gun used in taking aim
: a rim or molding (as on a board or tire) that sticks out
2 of 2verb
: to cover with beads or beading
: to string together like beads
: to form into a bead
Middle English bede "prayer, rosary bead," from Old English bed "prayer"
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. It has also been used to refer to any small, round object such as a drop of sweat.