Trend Watch

Obama: 'It Behooves Me to Be Very Brief'

The word is as old as English itself

Behoove spiked in lookups on January 20, 2017, after it was used in in remarks made by former President Obama at Andrews Air Force Base following Trump's inauguration:

Michelle and I, we've really been milking this goodbye thing. So it behooves me to be very brief.

Behoove means “to be necessary, proper, or advantageous for.” It’s a word that is as old as English itself, having come from Old English into modern use. The earliest known sense of behoove goes back to the 9th century and is now obsolete: “require, to have need of.” The sense of the word that is still used today has been in continual use for the past 800 years.

Behoove is relatively formal in tone, and has been used in press accounts of the U.S. president long before the present day:

It behooves the President to purge his Cabinet of every man known to give aid and comfort to, or in any wise countenance the revolt of any States against the authority of the Constitution and the laws of the Union.
Daily Courier (Louisville, KY), 28 Dec. 1860

It is now announced that “Governor Hill will probably visit Mr. Cleveland during this winter.” If the report be correct it behooves the President to take the precautions to get himself weather-stripped before his guest arrives.
New York Tribune, 16 Jan. 1887

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