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

  • intransitive v. To take the first step in performing an action; start.
  • intransitive v. To come into being: when life began.
  • intransitive v. To do or accomplish in the least degree: Those measures do not even begin to address the problem.
  • transitive v. To take the first step in doing; start: began work.
  • transitive v. To cause to come into being; originate.
  • transitive v. To come first in: The numeral 1 begins the sequence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To start, to initiate or take the first step into something.
  • n. Beginning; start.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Beginning.
  • intransitive v. To have or commence an independent or first existence; to take rise; to commence.
  • intransitive v. To do the first act or the first part of an action; to enter upon or commence something new, as a new form or state of being, or course of action; to take the first step; to start.
  • transitive v. To enter on; to commence.
  • transitive v. To trace or lay the foundation of; to make or place a beginning of.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To take the first step in; set about the performance or accomplishment of; enter upon; commence.
  • To originate; be the originator of: as, to begin a dynasty.
  • To trace from anything as the first ground; date the beginning of.
  • Synonyms To set about, institute, undertake, originate, initiate.
  • To come into existence; arise; originate: as, the present German empire began with William I.
  • To take a first step; commence in any course or operation; make a start or commencement.
  • At the outset; as the first thing to be considered; first of all: as, to begin with, I do not like its color.
  • n. A beginning.

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

  • v. be the first item or point, constitute the beginning or start, come first in a series
  • v. begin an event that is implied and limited by the nature or inherent function of the direct object
  • v. begin to speak or say
  • v. have a beginning, of a temporal event
  • v. have a beginning, in a temporal, spatial, or evaluative sense
  • v. begin to speak, understand, read, and write a language
  • n. Israeli statesman (born in Russia) who (as prime minister of Israel) negotiated a peace treaty with Anwar Sadat (then the president of Egypt) (1913-1992)
  • v. set in motion, cause to start
  • v. have a beginning characterized in some specified way
  • v. achieve or accomplish in the least degree, usually used in the negative
  • v. take the first step or steps in carrying out an action


Middle English biginnen, from Old English beginnan.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English beginnen, from Old English beginnan ("to begin"), from Proto-Germanic *biginnanan (“to begin”) (compare West Frisian begjinne, Dutch/German beginnen), from Proto-Indo-European *ghendhe/o 'to take' (compare Welsh genni ("to delve, submerge onself"), Latin prehendere 'to grasp, nab', praeda 'prey', Albanian  ("to catch"), Ancient Greek chandánein ("to hold, contain")). (Wiktionary)


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  • This word - Begin/begin - was among the capitonyms that sionnich linked us to earlier, which reminded me of a minor peeve of mine from way back. Why, when transliterating from the Hebrew alphabet into the Roman alphabet, would one choose those letters 'B-E-G-I-N' for a name that is pronounced BAYG'-in, a rhyme with Reagan, Meghann, Fagin and pagan? Wouldn't Baigin or Bagan or Baygin, Beygunn or any number of other spellings have been a better and more helpful choice? Actually, it is hard to come up with a worse choice without appearing to be doing so on purpose.

    December 12, 2008