be

1 of 5

verb

past tense first- and third-person singular was ˈwəz How to pronounce be (audio)
ˈwäz
; past tense second-person singular were ˈwər How to pronounce be (audio) ; past tense plural were; past subjunctive were; past participle been ˈbin How to pronounce be (audio) ˈben How to pronounce be (audio)
chiefly British
ˈbēn How to pronounce be (audio)
; present participle being ˈbē(-i)ŋ How to pronounce be (audio) ; present tense first-person singular am
əm,
ˈam How to pronounce be (audio)
; present tense second-person singular are ˈär How to pronounce be (audio)
ər
; present tense third-person singular is ˈiz How to pronounce be (audio)
əz
; present tense plural are; present subjunctive be

intransitive verb

1
a
: to equal in meaning : have the same connotation as : symbolize
God is love
January is the first month
let x be 10
b
: to have identity with : to constitute the same idea or object as
The first person I met was my brother.
c
: to constitute the same class as
These three books are the authoritative works on the president's life.
d
: to have a specified qualification or characterization
The leaves are green.
e
: to belong to the class of
the fish is a trout
Keeping this room clean is your responsibility.
used regularly in senses 1a through 1e as the copula of simple predication
2
a
: to have an objective existence : have reality or actuality : live
I think, therefore I am
b
: to have, maintain, or occupy a place, situation, or position
the book is on the table
c
: to remain unmolested, undisturbed, or uninterrupted
used only in infinitive form
let him be
d
: to take place : occur
the concert was last night
e
: to come or go
has already been and gone
has never been to the circus
f
archaic : belong, befall
… to thine and Albany's issue be this perpetual.Shakespeare

auxiliary verb

1
used with the past participle of transitive verbs as a passive-voice auxiliary
the money was foundthe house is being built
2
used as the auxiliary of the present participle in progressive tenses expressing continuous action
he is readingI have been sleeping
3
used with the past participle of some intransitive verbs as an auxiliary forming archaic perfect tenses
… Christ is risen from the dead …1 Corinthians 15:20 (Douay Version)
4
used with to + infinitive to express futurity, arrangement in advance, or obligation
I am to interview him todayshe was to become famous

Be

2 of 5

symbol

beryllium

3 of 5

abbreviation (1)

Baumé

BE

4 of 5

abbreviation (2)

1
bachelor of education
2
bachelor of engineering
3
bill of exchange
4
5

be-

5 of 5

prefix

1
: on : around : over
besmear
2
: to a great or greater degree : thoroughly
befuddle
3
: excessively : ostentatiously
in intensive verbs formed from simple verbs
bedeck
and in adjectives based on adjectives ending in -ed
beribboned
4
: about : to : at : upon : against : across
bestride
5
: make : cause to be : treat as
belittle
befriend
6
: call or dub especially excessively
bedoctor
7
: affect, afflict, treat, provide, or cover with especially excessively
bedevil
befog

Example Sentences

Verb stories that begin with the familiar line “once upon a time there was a beautiful maiden” we'll be there waiting for you
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
In April, Yo-Yo Ma be in Louisville for a five-day immersive residency with the Louisville Orchestra. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, 19 Jan. 2023 That’s up to the powers that be — my agent, whoever else. Dave Hyde, Sun Sentinel, 19 Jan. 2023 And while some hotels harvest and use their honey at their spa or restaurant, the Mercer in New York, which installed hives on its roof last spring with beekeeper Ian Sklarsky, prefers to just let its 70,000 bees be. Eunica Escalante Zoe Ruffner Juan A. Ramírez Abid Haque Angela Koh Devorah Lev-tov, New York Times, 18 Jan. 2023 Hailing from the province of San Cristóbal in the Dominican Republic, J Noa narrates the struggle, hustle, and bustle of life in the hood, while slaying some socio-political critiques of the D.R. governmental powers that be. Jessica Roiz, Billboard, 18 Jan. 2023 New Hampshire and Nevada would go second but on the same day and Biden further recommended that Georgia and Michigan be brought into the early mix. Natasha Korecki, NBC News, 5 Jan. 2023 My hope is that 2023 marks the year where honest actors are rewarded for technical ingenuity and a commitment to empowering individuals on the web, which is ultimately why we’re supposed to be here. Kathleen Breitman, Fortune, 5 Jan. 2023 Yet the powers that be still refuse to throw Dexter Jettster a cameo. Brendan Morrow, The Week, 4 Jan. 2023 Internet battles between protesters and the powers that be are heightened in China, where the internet is heavily censored and a surveillance dragnet sweeps up life online and off. Jody Rosen, New York Times, 21 Dec. 2022 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Verb

Middle English, from Old English bēon; akin to Old High German bim am, Latin fui I have been, futurus about to be, fieri to become, be done, Greek phynai to be born, be by nature, phyein to produce

Prefix

Middle English, from Old English bi-, be-; akin to Old English by, near — more at by

First Known Use

Verb

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near be

Cite this Entry

“Be.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/be. Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

be

1 of 2 verb
past 1st & 3rd singular was (ˈ)wəz How to pronounce be (audio)
ˈwäz
; 2nd singular were (ˈ)wər How to pronounce be (audio) ; plural were; past subjunctive were; past participle been (ˈ)bin How to pronounce be (audio)
 chiefly British  (ˈ)bēn
; present participle being ˈbē-iŋ How to pronounce be (audio) ; present 1st singular am əm How to pronounce be (audio)
(ˈ)am
; 2nd singular are ər How to pronounce be (audio)
(ˈ)är
; 3rd singular is (ˈ)iz How to pronounce be (audio)
əz
; plural are; present subjunctive be
1
a
: to have the same meaning as : serve as a sign for
January is the first month
let x be 10
b
: to have identity with
the first person I met was my brother
she is my mother
c
: to have the quality or character of
the leaves are green
d
: to belong to the class of
the fish is a trout
apes are mammals
2
a
: exist sense 1, live
I think, therefore I am
there once was a knight
b
: to occupy a place, situation, or position
the book is on the table
I was sick
c
: to remain undisturbed or uninterrupted
used only in infinitive form
let it be
d
: to take place : occur
the concert was last night
3
used with the past participle of transitive verbs to form the passive auxiliary
the money was foundthe house is being built
4
used with the present participle to express continuous action
they are studyingI have been sleeping
5
used with the infinitive with to to express the future or something one must do
she was to become famousI am to leave today

be-

2 of 2 prefix
1
: on : around : over
besmear
2
: provide with or cover with : dress up with
bejewel
bewhiskered
3
: about : to : upon
bemoan
4
: make : cause to be
belittle
befriend

Medical Definition

1 of 3 abbreviation
Baumé

Be

2 of 3 symbol
beryllium

BE

3 of 3 abbreviation
1
barium enema
2
below elbow
3
board-eligible

More from Merriam-Webster on be

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