verb (used with object), beat, beat·en or beat, beat·ing.
verb (used without object), beat, beat·en or beat, beat·ing.
- the audible, visual, or mental marking of the metrical divisions of music.
- a stroke of the hand, baton, etc., marking the time division or an accent for music during performance.
- to search through; scour: After beating about for several hours, he turned up the missing papers.
- Nautical. to tack into the wind.
- to bring into subjection; subdue.
- Informal. to persuade (a seller) to lower the price of something: His first price was too high, so we tried to beat him down.
- to ward off; repulse: We had to beat off clouds of mosquitoes.
- Slang: Vulgar. to masturbate.
- Informal. to defeat; win or be chosen over: to beat out the competition.
- Carpentry. to cut (a mortise).
- to produce hurriedly, especially by writing or typing: There are three days left to beat out the first draft of the novel.
- Baseball. (of a hitter) to make (an infield ground ball or bunt) into a hit: He beat out a weak grounder to third.
- Also beat up on. to strike repeatedly so as to cause painful injury; thrash: A gang of toughs beat him up on the way home from school. In the third round the champion really began to beat up on the challenger.
- British Informal. to find or gather; scare up: I'll beat up some lunch for us while you make out the shopping list.
- beast of burden,
- beast of prey,
- beat a dead horse,
- beat a path to someone's door,
- beat a retreat,
- beat all,
- beat around the bush
Origin of beat
verb beats, beating, beat, beaten or beat
- an assigned or habitual round or route, as of a policeman or sentry
- (as modifier)beat police officers
- pop or rock music characterized by a heavy rhythmic beat
- (as modifier)a beat group
- the act of scouring for game by beating
- the organized scouring of a particular woodland so as to rouse the game in it
- the woodland where game is so roused
Word Origin for beat
c.1300, "a beating, whipping; the beating of a drum," from beat (v.). As "throb of the heart" from 1755. Meaning "regular route travelled by someone" is attested from 1731, also "a track made by animals" (1736), from the sense of the "beat" of the feet on the ground (late Old English), or perhaps that in beat the bushes to flush game (c.1400), or beat the bounds (1560s). Extended to journalism by 1875. Musical sense is by 1842, perhaps from the motion of the conductor and the notion of "beating the time":
It is usual, in beating the time of a piece of music, to mark or signalize the commencement of every measure by a downward movement or beat of the hand, or of any other article that may be used for the purpose .... ["Godfrey Weber's General Music Teacher," 1842]
Earlier in music it meant a sort of grace note:
BEAT, in music, a transient grace note, struck immediately before the note it is intended to ornament. The beat always lies half a note beneath its principal, and should be heard so closely upon it, that they may almost seem to be struck together. ["The British Encyclopedia," London, 1809]
"defeated, overcome by effort," c.1400, from past tense of beat (v.). Meaning "tired, exhausted," is by 1905, American English.
Old English beatan "inflict blows on, thrash" (class VII strong verb; past tense beot, past participle beaten), from Proto-Germanic *bautan (cf. Old Norse bauta, Old High German bozan "to beat"), from PIE root *bhau- "to strike" (see batter (v.)). Of the heart, c.1200, from notion of it striking against the breast. Meaning "to overcome in a contest" is from 1610s (the source of the sense of "legally avoid, escape" in beat the charges, etc., attested from c.1920 in underworld slang).
Past tense beat is from c.1500, probably not from Old English but a shortening of Middle English beted. Dead-beat (originally "tired-out") preserves the old past participle. Meaning "strike cover to rouse or drive game" (c.1400) is source of beat around the bush (1570s), the metaphoric sense of which has shifted from "make preliminary motions" to "avoid, evade." Command beat it "go away" first recorded 1906 (though "action of feet upon the ground" was a sense of Old English betan). To beat off "masturbate" is recorded by 1960s. For beat generation see beatnik.
Repulse, drive away by blows, as in We tried to beat off the flying ants swarming about us. Originating in the mid-1600s in a military context, this term was being used for other activities by the mid-1700s.
In addition to the idioms beginning with beat
- beat a dead horse
- beat all
- beat a path to someone's door
- beat a retreat
- beat around the bush
- beat back
- beat down
- beaten track
- beat hollow
- beat into one's head
- beat it
- beat off
- beat one's brains out
- beat one's head against the wall
- beat out
- beats me
- beat someone at his or her own game
- beat the air
- beat the band
- beat the bushes for
- beat the clock
- beat the drum for
- beat the Dutch
- beat the living daylights out of
- beat the meat
- beat the pants off
- beat the rap
- beat time
- beat to it
- beat up
- dead beat
- heart misses a beat
- if you can't beat them, join them
- march to a different beat
- miss a beat
- off the beaten track
- pound the pavement (a beat)
- to beat the band