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a native English prefix formerly used in the formation of verbs:
become, besiege, bedaub, befriend.
Origin of be-
Middle English, Old English, unstressed form of by1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for be-


(from nouns) to surround completely; cover on all sides: befog
(from nouns) to affect completely or excessively: bedazzle
(from nouns) to consider as or cause to be: befool, befriend
(from nouns) to provide or cover with: bejewel
(from verbs) at, for, against, on, or over: bewail, berate
Word Origin
Old English be-, bi-, unstressed variant of by
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
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Word Origin and History for be-

word-forming element with a wide range of meaning: "thoroughly, completely; to make, cause seem; to provide with; at, on, to, for," from Old English be- "on all sides" (also used to make transitive verbs and as a privative or intensive prefix), from weak form of Old English bi "by," probably cognate with second syllable of Greek amphi, Latin ambi and originally meaning "about" (see ambi-).

This sense naturally drifted into intensive (cf. bespatter "spatter about," therefore "spatter very much"). Be- can also be privative (cf. behead), causative, or have just about any sense required. The prefix was productive 16c.-17c. in forming useful words, many of which have not survived, e.g. bethwack "to thrash soundly" (1550s), betongue "to assail in speech, to scold" (1630s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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