Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. One of a breed of small hounds having short legs, drooping ears, and a smooth coat with white, black, and tan markings.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A small short-legged smooth-coated hound, often used for hunting hares. Often tri-coloured, its friendly disposition makes it suitable as a family pet.
  • n. A person who snoops on others; a detective.
  • v. To hunt with beagles.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A small hound, or hunting dog, twelve to fifteen inches high, used in hunting hares and other small game. See Illustration in Appendix.
  • n. Fig.: A spy or detective; a constable.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A small hound, formerly kept to hunt hares, now almost superseded by the harrier, which is sometimes called by this name.
  • n. Hence Figuratively, one who makes a business of scenting out or hunting down (a person or thing); a spy; a bailiff or sheriff's officer.
  • n. A local name for several species of the smaller sharks.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a small short-legged smooth-coated breed of hound

Etymologies

Middle English begle, possibly from Old French bee gueule, loudmouth : beer, to gape (variant of baer; see bay2) + gueule, gullet (from Latin gula).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English begle. Origin uncertain, possibly from Middle French beegueule, from beer + gueule. The French bigle is from the English. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "Today's beagle is traced to the Norman Conquest of England, when the Talbot hound, a large tracking dog, was brought to Britain. This original foxhound was bred and selected to track, chase, and corner its quarry, alerting riders on horseback with its mournful bay.

    "Other Talbot hounds were selected and bred not to track, but for the convenience of their size. By the fifteenth century, texts refer to a small hunting dog, never taller than fifteen inches high, bred to be carried in the pocket of a knight on the hunt. The name of these small hounds derived from the Celtic word beag, meaning small. Despite its diminutive size, the beagle quickly gained a reputation for its even, if stubborn, temperament and stamina."
    —Merrily Weisbord and Kim Kachanoff, Dogs with Jobs: Working Dogs Around the World (NY and London: Pocket Books, 2000), 58

    See also pocket beagle, and another usage on termite.

    July 25, 2009