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beast

[ beest ]
/ bist /
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See synonyms for: beast / beasts / beastlike on Thesaurus.com

noun
any nonhuman animal, especially a large, four-footed mammal.
the crude animal nature common to humans and the lower animals: Hunger brought out the beast in him.
a cruel, coarse, filthy, or otherwise beastlike person.
a live creature, as distinguished from a plant: What manner of beast is this?
the beast, the Antichrist. Revelation 13:18.
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Origin of beast

First recorded in 1175–1225; Middle English be(e)ste, from Old French beste (French bête ), from Latin bēstia

synonym study for beast

1. See animal.

OTHER WORDS FROM beast

beastlike, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does beast mean?

The word beast refers to an animal, especially a big, four-legged mammal.

This sense of the word is used in a neutral way to refer to certain members of the animal kingdom, often to distinguish large beasts from smaller creatures, such as birds. This is how the word is used in the phrase beast of burden, referring to an animal that pulls heavy equipment, such as an ox. Similarly, a mammal that hunts other animals can be called a beast of prey.

The word creature is often used in a similar way, but beast typically implies a big animal, whereas creature can refer to even very small ones.

Another common meaning of the word beast refers to fictional creatures, especially ones that are considered monsters, as in I had a dream I was being chased by a terrible beast. This is how the word is used in the title of the story Beauty and the Beast. Creature can also be used as a synonym for this sense of the word, but it’s more neutral—a fictional being referred to as a creature may be friendly. By contrast, using the word beast often implies that it is monstrous or dangerous in some way—or is at least thought to be.

Beast is sometimes used in a figurative way to refer to a cruel and uncivilized nature of a person, as in Desperation brings out the beast in some people. Another figurative use of the word refers to a situation that is going to create trouble or be difficult to deal with, as in The comprehensive final exam is going to be a beast. 

The word beast is sometimes used to refer to humans in both very negative and very positive ways.

Calling a person a beast in a negative way likens them to a monster and implies that they behave in a crude, brutish, or animalistic way. This use of beast can be especially offensive, especially due to likening a person to an animal.

The adjective beastly means monstrous, nasty, vile, or cruel.

A more recent slang sense of beast is completely positive. Calling someone a beast in this way means they are extremely strong, skilled, or dominant in some activity, such as a sport, as in Tara is a beast on the volleyball court. This sense of the word is used in the slang term beast mode, which refers to an increased (and often temporary) state of exceptionally high performance.

Example: I love monster movies—the bigger and more grotesque the beast, the better.

Where does beast come from?

The first records of the word beast come from around 1200. It comes from the Latin bēstia, whose original meaning is uncertain. It may have simply been a word meaning “animal.”

The word beast is used in many different ways in pop culture, from the Beast in Beauty and the Beast to the character named Beast in the X-Men series, who is known for his beastlike appearance, strength, and agility. Another prominent use of the word beast comes from the Bible, from the Book of Revelation, which refers to two beasts. One of these is identified as the figure known as the Antichrist. The phrase mark of the beast is a reference to this.

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What are some other forms related to beast?

  • beastly (adjective)
  • beastlike (adjective)

What are some synonyms for beast?

What are some words that share a root or word element with beast?

What are some words that often get used in discussing beast?

How is beast used in real life?

Beast is a common word used in a variety of contexts. It can be used in neutral, positive, and very negative ways.

 

Try using beast!

Which of the following options could be described as a beast

A. a high-performing athlete
B. a hideous monster
C. a brutish person
D. all of the above

How to use beast in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for beast

beast
/ (biːst) /

noun
any animal other than man, esp a large wild quadruped
savage nature or characteristicsthe beast in man
a brutal, uncivilized, or filthy person
verb
(tr) military slang, slang, mainly British to punish or torture (someone) in a manner that involves excessive physical exercise

Word Origin for beast

C13: from Old French beste, from Latin bestia, of obscure origin
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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