be·​gin bi-ˈgin How to pronounce begin (audio)
began bi-ˈgan How to pronounce begin (audio)
; begun bi-ˈgən How to pronounce begin (audio)
; beginning

intransitive verb

: to do the first part of an action : go into the first part of a process : start
began by introducing herself
will have to begin again
: to come into existence : arise
Their problems were just beginning.
: to have a starting point
Her career began in Chicago.
Prices begin at $110 per night.
: to do or succeed in the least degree
I can't begin to tell you how pleased I am.

transitive verb

: to set about the activity of : start
They began the lecture at 10:00.
have already begun construction
: to bring into being : found
credited with beginning the movement
In 1819, he married the daughter of a … chief and began a dynasty that would last for nearly 200 years.Robert F. Oaks
: originate, invent
began their tradition
to begin with
: as the first thing to be considered
Choose the Right Synonym for begin

begin, commence, start, initiate, inaugurate, usher in mean to take the first step in a course, process, or operation.

begin, start, and commence are often interchangeable.

begin, opposed to end, is the most general.

begin a trip
began dancing

start, opposed to stop, applies especially to first actions, steps, or stages.

the work started slowly

commence can be more formal or bookish than begin or start.

commence firing
commenced a conversation

initiate implies taking a first step in a process or series that is to continue.

initiated diplomatic contacts

inaugurate suggests a beginning of some formality or notion of significance.

the discovery of penicillin inaugurated a new era in medicine

usher in is somewhat less weighty than inaugurate.

ushered in a period of economic decline

Examples of begin in a Sentence

They will begin construction on the new school soon. I got the job and I begin work on Monday! She'll begin the lecture at 10. He plans to begin the project later this week. They both began their careers at the local newspaper. The university began accepting applications in November. I had just begun eating when the phone rang. She interrupted as soon as I began to speak. Now that I've begun, I'll go on till I finish. I began the quilt last month. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Rumors of his relationship with Swift began to bubble up in the fall. Tom Schad, USA TODAY, 23 Feb. 2024 Key Facts The outage began around 4 a.m. ET, according to crowdsourced data collected by Downdetector—but AT&T had restored service to about three-quarters of its network as of 11:15 a.m. Siladitya Ray, Forbes, 22 Feb. 2024 By September 1980, Marley’s cancer had begun to overtake his body. Alex Gurley, Peoplemag, 22 Feb. 2024 Asa Benally’s costumes switch from one era to another with minimal changes, and sometimes actors shift back and forth without costume changes at all as the timelines begin to bleed into each other. Sam Hurwitt, The Mercury News, 22 Feb. 2024 General sale for the Beautifully Broken tour will begin Friday, March 1, at 10 a.m. local time via the official Jelly Roll website. Larisha Paul, Rolling Stone, 22 Feb. 2024 The Army, taking cues from the Ukraine war, has begun experimenting with dropping small munitions from drones, a tactic used by the Islamic State that has since become a mainstay in Ukraine. Alex Horton, Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2024 Chinese airlines have begun taking delivery on 85 Max that, caught in the trade war with the U.S., have waited parked since 2019. Shawn Tully, Fortune, 22 Feb. 2024 Cooper voiced the beloved Rocket Raccoon in multiple Marvel Cinematic Universe films beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy back in 2014. Ingrid Vasquez, Peoplemag, 10 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'begin.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English beginnen, going back to Old English beginnan, from be- be- + -ginnan, going back to Germanic *genn-a-, verbal base of uncertain meaning and origin occurring only with prefixes, found also in Old English onginnan "to be at a starting point, start," Old High German beginnan, Gothic duginnan

First Known Use

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

Time Traveler
The first known use of begin was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near begin

Cite this Entry

“Begin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


be·​gin bi-ˈgin How to pronounce begin (audio)
began -ˈgan How to pronounce begin (audio) ; begun -ˈgən How to pronounce begin (audio) ; beginning
: to do or be the first part of an action or course : start
begin your homework
it began to rain
: to come or bring into existence : originate
the war began in 1939
: to do or succeed in the least degree
does not begin to fill our needs

Biographical Definition


biographical name

Be·​gin ˈbā-gin How to pronounce Begin (audio)
Me*na*chem mə-ˈnä-ḵəm How to pronounce Begin (audio) 1913–1992 prime minister of Israel (1977–83)

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