from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A small, often round piece of material, such as glass, plastic, or wood, that is pierced for stringing or threading.
  • noun A necklace made of such pieces.
  • noun Roman Catholic Church A rosary.
  • noun Obsolete A prayer.
  • noun A small, round object, especially.
  • noun A drop of moisture.
  • noun A bubble of gas in a liquid.
  • noun A small metal knob on the muzzle of a firearm, such as a rifle, used for sighting.
  • noun A strip of material, usually wood, with one molded edge placed flush against the inner part of a door or window frame.
  • noun A decoration consisting of a usually continuous series of small spherical shapes, as on a convex molding.
  • noun Beading.
  • noun A projecting rim or lip, as on a pneumatic tire.
  • noun A line of continuously applied ductile material, such as solder or caulking compound.
  • noun Chemistry A globule of fused borax or other flux used in a bead test.
  • transitive & intransitive verb To furnish with or collect into beads.
  • idiom (draw/get) To take careful aim at.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To ornament with beads; raise beads upon.
  • noun In weaving, a roughness of yarn due to fraying by friction or rubbing.
  • noun Prayer; a prayer; specifically, a prayer of the list or bead-roll, read at public church-services by the preacher before his sermon, or by the curate (see bead-roll): usually in the plural.
  • noun One of the little balls, of wood, cocoanut-shell, pearl, glass, jewels, or other material, strung in a prescribed order, which form the chaplet or rosary in use in the devotions of Roman Catholics, Buddhists, etc., to keep count of the number of prayers said. See pair of beads, below.
  • noun Anything resembling a rosary-bead, strung with others for ornament, as in necklaces or beadwork: as, glass, amber, metal, coral, or other beads.
  • noun Any small globular, cylindrical, or annular body, as the small projecting piece of metal at the end of a gun-barrel used as a sight, a drop of liquid, etc.
  • noun One of the circular markings of certain diatoms.
  • noun The bubble or mass of bubbles rising to the top or resting on the surface of a liquid when shaken or decanted: as, the bead of wines or spirits.
  • noun A glass globule for trying the strength of alcoholic spirits.
  • noun In mineralogy, in the blowpipe examination of minerals, a globule of borax or other flux which is supported on a platinum wire, and in which the substance under examination is dissolved in the blowpipe flame.
  • noun In arch. and joinery, a small convex molding, in section a semicircle or greater than a semicircle; properly, a plain molding, but often synonymous with astragal, which is better reserved for a small convex molding cut into the form of a string of beads.
  • noun In bookbinding, shoemaking, etc., any cord-like prominence, as the roll on the head-band of a book, the seam of a shoe, etc.
  • noun that is, “set of beads” (), a rosary; now, specifically, a chaplet of five decades, that is, a third part of the rosary. A chaplet or pair of beads, as thus restricted, is the form in common use under the name of the beads. The large beads between the decades were formerly called gaudies (see gaud, gaudy); each separate bead, or grain, as it is now termed, Tyndale calls a stone.
  • noun literally, to offer (one's) prayers; hence the later equivalent phrases to say or recite (one's) beads, now with reference, as literally in the phrase to tell (one's) beads, to counting off prayers by means of the beads on the rosary. The phrases to count and to number (one's) beads are merely literary.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To ornament with beads or beading.
  • intransitive verb To form beadlike bubbles.
  • noun obsolete A prayer.
  • noun A little perforated ball, to be strung on a thread, and worn for ornament; or used in a rosary for counting prayers, as by Roman Catholics and Mohammedans, whence the phrases to tell beads, to be at one's beads, to bid beads, etc., meaning, to be at prayer.
  • noun Any small globular body.
  • noun A bubble in spirits.
  • noun A drop of sweat or other liquid.
  • noun A small knob of metal on a firearm, used for taking aim (whence the expression to draw a bead, for, to take aim).
  • noun (Arch.) A small molding of rounded surface, the section being usually an arc of a circle. It may be continuous, or broken into short embossments.
  • noun (Chem.) A glassy drop of molten flux, as borax or microcosmic salt, used as a solvent and color test for several mineral earths and oxides, as of iron, manganese, etc., before the blowpipe
  • noun (Carp.) framing in which the panels are flush, having beads stuck or run upon the two edges.
  • noun a species of fungus or mold, the stems of which consist of single cells loosely jointed together so as to resemble a string of beads.
  • noun a cutting tool, having an edge curved so as to make beads or beading.
  • noun (Bot.) a tree of the genus Melia, the best known species of which (Melia azedarach), has blue flowers which are very fragrant, and berries which are poisonous.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A small round object
  • noun A ridge, band, or molding.
  • noun A knowledge sufficient to direct one's activities to a purpose.
  • verb intransitive To form into a bead.


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

[Middle English bede, rosary bead, prayer, from Old English bed, bedu, gebed, prayer; see gwhedh- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English ġebed, from Proto-Germanic. Cognate with Dutch bede, German Gebet.


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  • get a bead on

    draw a bead on

    fail a bead on

    July 25, 2009

  • (n). In moonshining, a term for bubbles that form on the surface of shaken whiskey by which the alcoholic content is estimated.

    August 26, 2009

  • n. The bubble or mass of bubbles rising to the top or resting on the surface of a liquid when shaken or decanted: as, the bead of wines or spirits. Century Dictionary

    July 22, 2012