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

Example Sentences

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 After their hands are both covered in the sweet treat, the pair begin rubbing them together and licking the chocolate off. Stephanie Wenger, Peoplemag, 30 Jan. 2023 In Austin, freezing rain could begin as early as Monday morning. Rob Shackelford, CNN, 30 Jan. 2023 The collage elements begin as photo sessions where the artist’s friends and family act out parts of the play under his summary and direction. Christina Catherine Martinez, Los Angeles Times, 30 Jan. 2023 To support this coordination, the people having the conversation begin to align their breath, their eye gaze, their speech melody and their gestures. WIRED, 30 Jan. 2023 And for the most part, voters in early primary states only begin to give politics serious attention in the fall of the odd-numbered year. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 30 Jan. 2023 Only late into 2020 and 2021 did the SBA begin to remedy the problem, requiring more tax documents from borrowers seeking federal money. Tony Romm, Washington Post, 30 Jan. 2023 And in fact, any police reform bill, in many ways, would begin in his committee. NBC News, 29 Jan. 2023 But Purdy is looking to explore uncharted territory, and that would begin with a victory at Lincoln Financial Field against what's going to be the best team he's ever faced. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, 29 Jan. 2023 See More

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

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 Feb. 2023.

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)

More from Merriam-Webster on begin

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