from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A man employed in praying; especially, one who prays for another.
  • noun In England, a man who resides in a beadhouse or almshouse, or is supported from its funds.
  • noun Formerly, in Scotland, a public almsman; one who received alms from the king, and was expected in return to pray for the royal welfare and that of the state; a privileged or licensed beggar. In this sense usually spelled bedesman.
  • noun A petitioner.

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

  • noun A poor man, supported in a beadhouse, and required to pray for the soul of its founder; an almsman.

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

  • noun a person who is paid to pray for the soul of another


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • OED: 1. lit. A man of prayer; one who prays for the soul or spiritual welfare of another.

    c1230 Ancr. R. 356 Beon ores beodemon. c1425 WYNTOUN Cron. IX. xxvii. 99 His Bede-men ai suld be..And pray for hym. 1538 LATIMER Serm. & Rem. (1845) 412 The prior of Worcester, is your orator and beadsman. c1540 Thrie Priests of Peblis, Welcum my beidmen, my blesse, and al my beild. 1591 SHAKES. Two Gent. I. i. 18 Commend thy grieuance to my holy prayers, For I will be thy beadesman, Valentine. 1647 WARD Simp. Cobler (1843) 62 As fervent a Beadsman for your welfare. 1869 FREEMAN Norm. Conq. (1876) III. ii. 28 His friend and bedesman, Abbot Eadwine.

    2. One paid or endowed to pray for others; a pensioner or almsman charged with the duty of praying for the souls of his benefactors. Hence in later times; a. in England: An almsman, an inmate of an almshouse; (so also beadswoman: see BEAD n. 3); b. in Scotland: A public almsman or licensed beggar (into which position ‘the King's Bedesmen’ finally sank.)

    April 29, 2010