be·lea·guer | \bi-ˈlē-gər, bē-\
beleaguered; beleaguering\bi-ˈlē-g(ə-)riŋ, bē- \

Definition of beleaguer 

transitive verb

1 : besiege a town beleaguered by an army a beleaguered city

2 : trouble, harass beleaguered parents an economically beleaguered city

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Other Words from beleaguer

beleaguerment \bi-ˈlē-gər-mənt, bē- \ noun

Synonyms for beleaguer


besiege, blockade, invest

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Did You Know?

English speakers created "beleaguer" from the Dutch word belegeren in the 16th century. "[Military men] will not vouchsafe . . . to use our ancient terms belonging to matters of war, but do call a camp by the Dutch name," commented the English soldier and diplomat Sir John Smyth in 1590. The word for "camp" that he was referring to is "leaguer." That term in turn comes from Dutch "leger," which is one of the building blocks of "belegeren" (literally, "to camp around"). But neither "leaguer" nor "beleaguer" were in fact utterly foreign. Old English "leger," the source of our modern "lair," is related to the Dutch word. And the Old English "be-" ("about, around"), as seen in "besiege" and "beset," is related to the Dutch prefix be- in "belegeren."

Examples of beleaguer in a Sentence

the lack of funds that beleaguers schools beleaguered the castle for months

Recent Examples on the Web

Far from the initial fighting was the Catholic church, a supposedly safe place for triage, and beleaguered and wounded students were arriving from the front lines by pickup truck, by motorbike, and on foot. Joshua Partlow,, "Inside the church where Nicaraguan paramilitaries laid siege on university students," 14 July 2018 Byford was seven weeks into the job, which had come with a seemingly impossible mission: to rebuild the city’s beleaguered public-transit system, after years of chaotic decline and stark dysfunction. William Finnegan, The New Yorker, "Can Andy Byford Save the Subways?," 2 July 2018 Now, with a good result against Egypt next Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Cherchesov’s beleaguered squad likely will avoid joining South Africa on the wrong side of history. Brian Straus,, "Russia's World Cup Opener Alters Its Narrative, Changes Its Outlook, Pleases Putin," 14 June 2018 Where Howard Davies’s 1999 production revolved around Spacey, Wolfe’s production places Washington as one of three tentpole performances, between Colm Meaney’s beleaguered bar owner and David Morse’s haunting, haunted ex-revolutionary. Constance Grady, Vox, "Your guide to the 17 most important nominees at this year’s Tonys," 7 June 2018 Enrique Peña Nieto Mexico’s beleaguered president also has an academically suspect history. Ian Bremmer, Time, "5 Politicos With Questionable Academic Credentials," 5 Mar. 2018 Despite the offense’s productivity, the team was beleaguered by slow starts. Edward Lee,, "Review & preview: Mount St. Mary’s men’s lacrosse," 6 June 2018 DeKalb County’s beleaguered ambulance provider has agreed to increase staff and coverage in areas where response times tend to be longer, though the new effort may do little to satisfy officials who’ve already given up on the company. Joshua Sharpe, ajc, "DeKalb ambulance provider promises better service; Dunwoody skeptical," 30 May 2018 Reports published by the university, the state and federal government, as well as interviews, reveal that in recent years the counseling center was beleaguered by serious problems. David Jesse, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State lawsuit sounds familiar to sexual assault survivors," 12 Apr. 2018

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

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First Known Use of beleaguer

1587, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for beleaguer

Dutch belegeren, from be- (akin to Old English be-) + leger camp; akin to Old High German legar bed — more at lair

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Statistics for beleaguer

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Time Traveler for beleaguer

The first known use of beleaguer was in 1587

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More Definitions for beleaguer



English Language Learners Definition of beleaguer

: to cause constant or repeated trouble for (a person, business, etc.)

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Comments on beleaguer

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


to reject or criticize sharply

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