be·​hest bi-ˈhest How to pronounce behest (audio)
: an authoritative order : command
The meeting was called at the senator's behest.
: an urgent prompting
At the behest of her friends, she read the poem aloud.

Did you know?

Behest is an ancient word: it is almost a thousand years old. It was formed from the prefix be- and the verb hātan ("to command" or "to promise"), and its Old English ancestor was used exclusively in the sense of "promise," a now-obsolete meaning that continued on in Middle English especially in the phrase "the land of behest." The "command" meaning of behest is also ancient but it's still in good use, typically referring to an authoritative order. Behest is now also used with a less weighty meaning; it can refer to an urgent prompting, as in "a repeat performance at the behest of the troupe's fans."

Examples of behest in a Sentence

I only made the change at the author's behest.
Recent Examples on the Web Further income is often at the behest of significantly lower non-exclusive income streams from AVOD and Pay 3 windows if, indeed, revenues are still being generated by that stage. Angus Finney, Variety, 12 Feb. 2024 At Trump’s behest, Nevada Republicans passed a rule that blocks super PACs like the one doing a heavy lift for DeSantis’ day-to-day operations from being in the mix. TIME, 16 Jan. 2024 Then, in 2017, a member of Cole’s family was mysteriously invited to Stockholm at the behest of a Swedish bank. Vann R. Newkirk Ii, The Atlantic, 1 Feb. 2024 Festa confessed to the burglary a few years later, while cooperating with prosecutors at Donnerstag’s 1975 murder and burglary trial, telling the court that the caper had been at the behest of Imperiale, who at the time of the trial was a state senator. Emily Palmer, Peoplemag, 29 Jan. 2024 Some of the strongest and most charming moments in Reinas take place around two beach trips Carlos informally organizes at the behest of Lucia and Aurora. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 Jan. 2024 Prosecutors played phone calls Frey recorded at the behest of authorities between herself and Scott in the weeks after Laci vanished in which Scott read her love poetry to Frey, CBS reported at the time. Nicole Acosta, Peoplemag, 22 Jan. 2024 This has been by design: At the behest of the U.S., reporting military emissions was largely exempted from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the document that set binding emissions targets for nations that signed. Zoë Schlanger, The Atlantic, 17 Jan. 2024 Advertisement Today, Bender is retired from a career on Capitol Hill, living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and sorry to see his party shun Iowa — at President Biden’s behest — in favor of later contests in South Carolina and Nevada. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 14 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'behest.' 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, promise, command, from Old English behǣs promise, from behātan to promise, from be- + hātan to command, promise — more at hight

First Known Use

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of behest was in the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near behest

Cite this Entry

“Behest.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


be·​hest bi-ˈhest How to pronounce behest (audio)
: order entry 2 sense 5b, command
built monuments at their ruler's behest

More from Merriam-Webster on behest

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