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


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

Middle English biginnen, from Old English beginnan.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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")).



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • 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