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  1. a gesture used to signal, summon, or direct someone.
  2. Chiefly Scot. a bow or curtsy of greeting.
verb (used with or without object)
  1. Archaic. beckon.
  1. at someone's beck and call, ready to do someone's bidding; subject to someone's slightest wish: He has three servants at his beck and call.

Origin of beck1

1325–75; Middle English becken, short variant of becnen to beckon
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for at someone's beck and call


  1. a nod, wave, or other gesture or signal
  2. at someone's beck and call ready to obey someone's orders instantly; subject to someone's slightest whim

Word Origin

C14: short for becnen to beckon


  1. (in N England) a stream, esp a swiftly flowing one

Word Origin

Old English becc, from Old Norse bekkr; related to Old English bece, Old Saxon beki, Old High German bah brook, Sanskrit bhanga wave
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for at someone's beck and call



c.1300, shortening of beckon. (v.).



late 14c., "mute signal," from noun use of bekken (v.), variant of becnan "to beckon" (see beckon). Transferred sense of "slightest indication of will" is from late 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with at someone's beck and call

at someone's beck and call

Required to comply with someone's requests or commands, as in The boss expects the entire staff to be at his beck and call. The noun beck, now obsolete except in this idiom, meant “a gesture or signal of command, such as a nod or hand movement,” whereas call signifies “a vocal summons.” Also see dance attendance on.


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.