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 Originally designed at the behest of PanAm pilots, the GMT-Master has gone on to help define the modern travel watch genre. Blake Buettner, Robb Report, 14 June 2024 At the behest of the Mexican Attorney General's office, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traced a .50-caliber bullet used by the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, or CJNG, in 2015 to down a military helicopter − discovering it was supplied by a Portland, Oregon man. Beth Warren, The Courier-Journal, 12 June 2024 The judge reduced Hendon's criminal trespassing count to a misdemeanor, at the behest of prosecutors, because he was wrongly charged with a felony. Quinlan Bentley, The Enquirer, 12 June 2024 As the Republican National Convention draws near, movement pro-lifers are becoming concerned that the party will water down its historic commitment to their cause at the behest of the party’s leader and presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Audrey Fahlberg, National Review, 12 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for behest 

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 22 Jun. 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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