Definitions

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

  • transitive v. To be or give a sign of; indicate. See Synonyms at indicate.
  • transitive v. To engage, hire, or order in advance. See Synonyms at book.
  • transitive v. To request: bespeak a favor.
  • transitive v. To foretell; portend: fearful weapons that bespeak great loss of life.
  • transitive v. Archaic To speak to; address.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To speak about; tell of; relate; discuss.
  • v. To speak for beforehand; engage in advance; make arrangements for; order or reserve in advance.
  • v. To stipulate, solicit, ask for, or request, as in a favour.
  • v. To forbode; foretell.
  • v. To speak to; address.
  • v. To betoken; show; indicate; foretell; suggest.
  • v. To speak up or out; exclaim; speak.
  • n. A request for a specific performance; a benefit performance, by a patron.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A bespeaking. Among actors, a benefit (when a particular play is bespoken.)
  • intransitive v. To speak.
  • transitive v. To speak or arrange for beforehand; to order or engage against a future time.
  • transitive v. To show beforehand; to foretell; to indicate.
  • transitive v. To betoken; to show; to indicate by external marks or appearances.
  • transitive v. To speak to; to address.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To speak for beforehand; engage in advance; make arrangements for: as, to bespeak a place in a theater.
  • To stipulate, solicit, or ask for, as a favor: as, to bespeak a calm hearing.
  • To forebode; foretell.
  • To speak to; address.
  • To betoken; show; indicate, as by signs.
  • To speak up or out; exclaim; speak.
  • n. Among actors in Great Britain, a benefit: so called from the bespeaking of patronage by the actors, or of the play by the patrons. See benefit, 5.

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

  • v. be a signal for or a symptom of
  • v. express the need or desire for; ask for

Etymologies

Middle English bispeken, to speak out, from Old English besprecan, to speak about.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English bespeken, bispeken, from Old English *bespecan, besprecan ("to speak about, speak against, accuse of, claim at law, complain"), from Proto-Germanic *bisprekanan (“to discuss, blame”), equivalent to be- +‎ speak. Cognate with Scots bespeke ("to beseech, speak or negotiate with"), West Frisian besprekke ("to discuss"), Dutch bespreken ("to discuss, review, debate"), German besprechen ("to discuss, review, talk about"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The public duties to which he was often called bespeak his ability, and the confidence reposed in him by the leading men of his day.

    The Sermons of John Owen

  • Ma’aruf was silent92 and did not again bespeak him till he reached the Desert Quarter and casting him down there, went away and left him in that horrible place. —

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • Both titles bespeak what our nation claims to stand for in education: a passion for imparting knowledge to all our children, equity for all students 'performance, and dedication and commitment from instructors to the ideals of universal education across the country.

    Karen Symms Gallagher: Teachers Wanted: Our Ailing Education System Needs Quality Teachers with Staying Power

  • "bespeak" - "commission to be made," according to my Oxford dictionary-a burger.

    *michael parekh on IT*

  • It was Mr. Crummles 'habit to give a benefit performance, commonly called a "bespeak," to any member of his company fortunate enough to have either a birthday or any other anniversary of sufficient importance to challenge attention on the posters, and not long after Nicholas entered the company, this honor fell to the lot of one of the prominent actresses, Miss Snevellicci.

    Ten Girls from Dickens

  • And to come to a later instance, the reader may bear in mind that before that ornament of Mr. Crummles's company, Miss Snevellici, took her benefit or "bespeak" at the Portsmouth Theatre, she, in company with Nicholas Nickleby, and, for propriety's sake, the Infant

    A Book of the Play Studies and Illustrations of Histrionic Story, Life, and Character

  • "bespeak," that you can select and arrange to your own taste; that it is not "to take or to leave" at your peril and as it offers itself.

    Matthew Arnold

  • These tangible things bespeak an underlying reality.

    Blind Faith?

  • But Alder said the one-day spike in violence does not necessarily bespeak a larger trend.

    Three killed in weekend outbreak of violence in Southeast D.C.

  • * But taking your own, perfectly good weapon, or a quantity of red pigment, or even a usable animal jawbone, and giving it away to be buried alongside a lifeless corpse seems to bespeak some sort of belief that the dead person is, or sometime soon will be, alive in some other form or some other place.

    In the Valley of the Shadow

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