Middle English Dictionary Entry

bẹ̄n v.
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Entry Info

Definitions (Senses and Subsenses)

(a) To be, exist, live; there is (was, were, etc.); that was, who formerly lived, now dead; if his liking be, if it be his will; if (sth.) ne were, if (sth.) had not been, if it were not for (sth.); thurgh-whiles his wil be, whilst it might be his will, as long as he wished; (b) ppl. being, existing, living; al being thinges, all created things; being word, living word; fig. Christ; for the time being, existing at that time, holding office at that time; (c) with neg.: not to be or exist; there is (was, etc.) no; if here fasten nere, if it had not been for their fasting; nere, were it not for (sth.); nere that, nere bicause that, were it not that; no harm nas, there was no harm in it; (d) to come to pass, happen, occur; of a time or a day: arrive, come; of fruit: appear, be borne; of need: arise; what is, what is to happen, what will be done.
(a) With obj.(orig. dat.): to be for (sb.), be given or offered to (sb.), happen to (sb.); ~ him worthmint, honor be to him; hard me was, it went hard with me; me is cold, it is cold for me, I am cold; ned was him, it was necessary for him; that hir to have is, that is as wealth to her; us wors bið, it will be the worse for us; you bes for to se, is destined for you to see, you will see; (b) neg. with obj.: not to be for (sb.), not to happen to (sb.); hir never sel nere, it might never be (or fare) the better; nis me never wel, I am never well off; the nis non ned, it is not necessary to thee; (c) beter hem were, it were better for them, they would be better off; hem was bet, it was better with them, they were better; him best were, is me best, it would be best for him (me); wel bes him, it shall be well with him; wel is (was) him (hir, me), it is (was) well with him (her, me); were the king beter, it were better for the king; (d) lever me were, me were lever, it would be more agreeable to me; loth hem was, it was distasteful to them; were him lef were him loth, if it were agreeable to him or disagreeable, whether he liked it or not; (e) litel him is of (sth.), (sth.) means little to him; of his ne was him nought, it meant nothing to him, he did not care about it; of non thing elles nis the nought, nothing else matters to thee; was hem nought ther of, it meant nothing to them, they paid no attention to it; (f) what is the (you), what mai the ben, what is the matter with you; what hir were, what was wrong with her; what me is, what ails me; (g) wo is me, woe is me, I am woeful; hou wo the bith, how woeful you are; wo bith (sb.), woe be to (sb.); wo were the man, etc.; nas me (me nas) never so wo, I was never so woeful.
(a) With adv.: to be or exist; happen or occur; live or happen (at a certain time, in a place), be (in a certain condition, of a certain kind or quality, etc.); ~ awei, be absent; also, be lost; ~ bihind, be in arrears; ~ in, be inside, be within; ~ ther-yenes, be opposed to that; ~ toward, be to happen, be to come; being therto, belonging to it; nou ben, now there are; was never, there never was; (b) neg. with adv.: not to exist, not to be (at a time, in a place, far from a place, in a condition, etc.); nas never, there never was; never nere, never had existed; nou it nis, it no longer exists; so it nas, it was not in this manner; (c) last was, last (Friday); that nou is, who now lives or reigns; the tho was, who then lived or held office; (d) in questions: wher ~, where is (are, etc.); wher art, where art thou; wher esty, where is thy; (e) ther ~, ~ ther, is (are, were, etc.) in that place; (f) ther ~, ~ ther, there is (are, was, etc.), if there were; ther ~ comen, there has (have) come, (sth.) has come, etc.; ther ~ made, (sth.) is (was) made; bether, buther, are there; wastir, was there, there was; (g) neg. with ther: ther nis (nas, nere), there is (was, were) no; ther nis but, there is only; nastir non, there was none; nyster, there is no.
(a) With phrase or clause: ~ a)yen(es, be contrary to (sth.), be opposed to, be inimical to; ~ thurgh, be due to (sth.); ~ withouten, be free from (sth.); queming bes him til, he takes pleasure (in sth.); ~ aboven, ~ among, ~ bi, ~ biforen, ~ from, ~ ilich (lik), ~ mid (with) child, ~ over, ~ siththe, ~ umbe, ~ upon, etc.; -- also neg.; (b) ~ abouten (abouteward), be busy (doing sth.), endeavor (to do sth.), work to achieve (sth.), intend or seek (to do sth.); ~ abouten nought, strive for nothing, act unwisely; neren abouten, not to be near (sb.); (c) ~ at, be at (a place), be with (sb.); be occupied with (sth.); be priced at (so much); ~ at wil, be under (someone's) control; ~ at malese, be in discomfort; ~ at wordes, quarrel; (d) ~ bouten, be without (sth.), lack, be free from; -- also neg.; (e) ~ bouten, be only (sth.), there is (are) only; neg.: be nothing but (sth.), be only, be no more than, be certainly (sth.), there is no (sth.) except; (f) ~ for, be for (oneself), act on (one's own) behalf; be due to (sth.); (g) ~ in, be or exist in (a place), occur during (a period of time), be in (a state or condition), take part in (a fight); ~ in dred, be afraid; ~ in swink, be at work, be toiling; -- often neg.; (h) ~ of, belong to (a class, group, family, etc.); ~ of his, be his people; ~ of lede, be one of a nation or race; be from (a place); be descended from (sb.); be made of (a material); be caused or originated by (sth.); ~ of wicchecraft, be produced by sorcery; eie was of him, there was fear of him; hou so bes of the bataile, whatever comes of the battle, however the battle turns out; -- also neg.; (i) ~ of, be of (a certain quality or condition); ~ of god live, be living a good life; ~ of non arrai, be disorderly; ~ of pris, be of rank or estate; have (an age, an attribute, a quality, a power); ~ of cruelte, be cruel; ~ of litel fei, have little faith; -- also neg.; (j) ~ on, be in (a place), occur at (a time), be in (a state or condition), be granted to (sb.); ~ on deth, be dead; ~ on live(s, be alive; his blod on us be, let his blood be charged against us; what him is on, what is wrong with him; (k) ~ so (as, such), be as (sth. is or does), be like (sth.); (1) ~ to, be given to (sb.), be offered or granted to; belong to (sb.), be or come into the possession of; pertain to (sth.), concern; (m) ~ under, be underneath (sth.); be in (someone's control); (n) being in itself, having independent existence; being for the time, for the time being, temporarily.
As copula with noun or pronoun: (a) to be (sb., sth.), become (sth.); be which he be, let it be what it may be, whatever it be; (b) neg.: not to be (sth.); (c) pl. with subj. in dual number; (d) sg. with it, that, this as subj.; what is that to me, what has that to do with me; what that it be, whatever it be; -- also neg.; (e) pl. with it, that, this as subj.: it arn, they are, that weren, those were, etc.; -- also neg.; (f) that is, that is, to wit, i.e.; -- followed by noun, also by noun phr. or cl.; (g) i(ch) it am, I am he; ich it be, it is I; it am I, I am he, it is I; it is I; am hit ich, is it I?; it nam not I, it is not I, I am not he; that am not I, I am not that; (h) al ~, although (sb.) be (sth.).
As copula, with adj.: (a) to be or become (sth.); (b) neg.: not to be (sth.); nere the herte so cold, be the heart never so cold; (c) ~ war, to be aware, be informed, be aware of (sth.); -- often with of phrase; also with bi phrase, hou clause; -- also neg.; (d) ~ war, to beware, beware of (sth.); ~ war of (with), beware of; ~ war that, take care that (sth. does not happen); ~ war to, beware of (doing sth.); be-war the ges, let the geese beware; (e) ~ wo, be woeful; (f) with adj. preceding and inf. or cl. following: bet(er is, it is better (to do sth.); beter were, it would be better; god is that; hou best were, what might be the best way (to do sth.); ned is, it is necessary (that sth. be or happen); when best were, when it would be best (to do sth.); (g) al ~, although (sb.) be (sth.); al were he bad, although he was bad.
As copula with genitive: to belong to (sb.); of religious acts: be for the benefit of (sb.); of mastery or victory: fall to the lot of (sb.); of wrong: be laid to the charge of (sb.); of vengeance: be the duty or responsibility of (sb.); --also neg.
As copula or auxiliary with inf.: (a) to be destined (to be or do sth.), be expected or required (to do sth.), be entitled (to have sth.); ~ to ben, be destined to be, will be; ~ to comen, be to come, will be or happen in the future; ~ to menen, to mean; ~ to seien, say, mean; enden ~, will come to an end; (b) with active inf. having pass. meaning: be, ought, should; aren to leven, are to be believed; ~ nought to seien, ought not to be said; ~ to blamen (edwiten, witen), be to be censured or condemned, be to blame; ~ to don, be to be done, ought to be done; ~ to understonden, should be understood as, signify; is to iholden, is to be kept, etc.; (c) with pass. inf.: be, ought, should; (d) that is (at) seien, that is (for) to seien, that is to understonden, that is to witen, that is to say, i.e., that is; this is to seien, this means.
As copula or auxiliary with pr. ppl.: ~ helpende, be helpful; ~ spekende, be speaking, etc. [The phrases are more often copula plus ppl. modifier in early uses, more often progressive verb phrases in later uses.]
As copula or auxiliary with p.ppl.: (a) with verbs usually having object: to be; ~ had, to be had, occur, take place; ~ sworen, be required to take an oath, be sworn; est heghed, is exalted; wast nailed, wert nailed; (b) ~ boren, to be born; (c) neg.: not to be; nas never walwed, was never tossed; nis nomen, is not taken or caught, etc; (d) with verbs not usually having obj.: to be, to have; ~ bicomen (iworden), to have become; ~ fordred, be afraid; ~ forth faren, be dead, have died; ~ ronnen, be past, have passed; is faren, is gone, has gone, etc.; -- also neg.; (e) ~ comen, to be arrived, to have come; ~ comen of, be descended from (a family, king, lineage, etc.); (f) ~ gon, to be gone, to have gone; of time: to be past; -- also neg.; (g) ~ went, to be gone, to have gone.
Ppl. ben with auxilliary haven: has (have, had) been.
Inf. ben with modals, etc.: (a) leten ~, leave (sb.), depart from, leave (a character in a story); let (sb.) alone, cease to annoy; stop (doing sth.), desist from, avoid; have done, stop; leave (sth. unspoken); (b) moten ~, must be, may be; (c) mowen ~, can be, may be; hou mai this ~, how can this happen; ne mighte it ~, it could not happen, it was impossible; that mai not ~, that cannot be (or happen); what mai ~ that, what can that be, what is that; (d) owen to ~, ought to be; oughte him ~, it is fitting for him to be, he ought to be; (e) shulen ~, shall (should) be, must be, ought to be, is to be; often as simple future: will be, will happen, etc.; hou shal that be, how can that happen; (f) willen ~, wish to be, be willing to be; often as simple future: will be, will happen, etc.; it (that) wil not ~, that will not be or happen; it wolde not ~, it was not to be, it could not happen; wil thi sweven ~, your dream will come true.
In impers. constr. with it: (a) with adv., phr., or cl.: it is (was, would be, etc.), there is (was, were, etc.); be it beter be it wors, let it be better or worse, for better or for worse; thegh it were here unthankes, although it was against their will; if it for shame nere, if it were not for the shame; (b) as (so) it were, as it were, so to speak, as though it (he, they) were; (c) be it so, so be it, may it be so; be so it be, whatever it may be; (d) with adj. or ppl.: it is (was, etc.); (e) with noun or pron. as real subject: it is (was, will be, etc.); gret wonder it were, it would be a great wonder (if sb. did sth.); his wil ist, it is his will; what wonder wast, what wonder was it, no wonder; in expressions of time: it beth even, it is (or becomes) evening; til it was dai, till day came, etc.; it no wonder nas, it was no wonder; (f) it aren, there are; it was, there was; (g) with inf. or ger. as real subject: it is (would be, etc.), it is desireable (to do sth.), it is necessary or permissible; it were tor for to tellen, it would be tedious to tell; if it to tellen be, if it may be told; it be not to asken if, it is not to be asked whether, it goes without saying that; it is not to obeien, one should not obey; it is to refreinen, restraint should be used; it is to passen, it is time to pass on (to sth.); it is to speken, it is time to speak (of sth.); it was for nought, it was useless (to do sth.); (h) with clause as real subject: it is, it would be, be it, etc.; beter it were that, it would be better if (sth. were so); it is ileved that, it is believed that (sth. happened); bet knowen that, be it known that; if it be so that, if; though it so be that, although; wast beter, it was better that; when wast that, when was it that; nere it that, were it not that; (i) al be it, al be it that (so that, though), al were it so that, although (sth. is true); (j) hou be it (that), although, however.
Some special temporal and modal uses: (a) present tense with future force; (b) be as be mai, come what may; etc.; (c) clauses with pr. subjunctive were; (d) negative clauses with pr. subjunctive were.
In salutations and toasts: be thou on sound; hol be thou; wel you be; heil be thou; was heil, wasseil, your health, good luck to you, etc.
In various abbreviated constructions: (a) without subject; (b) with adv. or phr. omitted; (c) with ppl. or predicate omitted; (d) with complement omitted.
In clauses equivalent to conjunctions: al be (that), þof it be so that, although; be so (that), provided that, if; if so be, if so were that, if; nere, werne, if it were not that, were it not that.

Supplemental Materials (draft)

  • a1500 Ashm.750 Artist.Recipes (Ashm 750) 256/21 : When þi letter er well drye, tak a calfe tothe and bornesch þi goold þerwith.
  • Note: Clarke's gloss = "er v. 3 sg. pr. 'is'." ?New spelling (?error).

Supplemental Materials (draft)

  • ?c1400(1379) *Treat.Uroscopy (Roy 17.D.1)f.69vb (2.10) : Vryn ruf or subruf wiþ a mene body..þe malady ʒit beande in þe bigynnyng..it seiþ an hote febre interpolat.
Note: New spelling (pr. ppl.): beande.