1. a guiding or warning signal, as a light or fire, especially one in an elevated position.
  2. a tower or hill used for such purposes.
  3. a lighthouse, signal buoy, etc., on a shore or at a dangerous area at sea to warn and guide vessels.
  4. Navigation.
    1. radio beacon.
    2. a radar device at a fixed location that, upon receiving a radar pulse, transmits a reply pulse that enables the original sender to determine his or her position relative to the fixed location.
  5. a person, act, or thing that warns or guides.
  6. a person or thing that illuminates or inspires: The Bible has been our beacon during this trouble.
  7. Digital Technology. web beacon.
verb (used with object)
  1. to serve as a beacon to; warn or guide.
  2. to furnish or mark with beacons: a ship assigned to beacon the shoals.
verb (used without object)
  1. to serve or shine as a beacon: A steady light beaconed from the shore.

Origin of beacon

before 950; Middle English beken, Old English bēacen sign, signal; cognate with Old Frisian bāken, Old Saxon bōkan, Old High German bouhhan
Related formsbea·con·less, adjectiveun·bea·coned, adjective

Synonyms for beacon

1. beam, buoy, pharos; signal fire; balefire.


[bee-kuh n]
  1. a city in SE New York. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for beacons

Contemporary Examples of beacons

Historical Examples of beacons

  • The beacons solved that problem and opened the entire universe.

    The Repairman

    Harry Harrison

  • For this reason, most beacons are built on uninhabited planets.

    The Repairman

    Harry Harrison

  • Beacons had been prepared on every hill and headland, and men were set to watch.

    Red Cap Tales

    Samuel Rutherford Crockett

  • We have experience, we have beacons, we have landmarks enough.

  • Now the Corporation, with its jurisdiction and beacons, is purely modern.

British Dictionary definitions for beacons


  1. a signal fire or light on a hill, tower, etc, esp one used formerly as a warning of invasion
  2. a hill on which such fires were lit
  3. a lighthouse, signalling buoy, etc, used to warn or guide ships in dangerous waters
  4. short for radio beacon
  5. a radio or other signal marking a flight course in air navigation
  6. short for Belisha beacon
  7. a person or thing that serves as a guide, inspiration, or warning
  8. a stone set by a surveyor to mark a corner or line of a site boundary, etc
  1. to guide or warn
  2. (intr) to shine

Word Origin for beacon

Old English beacen sign; related to Old Frisian bāken, Old Saxon bōcan, Old High German bouhhan
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 beacons



Old English beacen "sign, portent, lighthouse," from West Germanic *baukna "beacon, signal" (cf. Old Frisian baken, Old Saxon bokan, Old High German bouhhan); not found outside Germanic. Perhaps borrowed from Latin bucina "a crooked horn or trumpet, signal horn." But more likely from PIE *bhew-, a variant of the base *bha- "to gleam, shine" (see phantasm). Figurative use from c.1600.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper