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verb (used with or without object)
  1. to signal, summon, or direct by a gesture of the head or hand.
  2. to lure; entice.
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  1. a nod, gesture, etc., that signals, directs, summons, indicates agreement, or the like.
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Origin of beckon

before 950; Middle English beknen, Old English gebē(a)cnian, derivative of bēacen beacon
Related formsbeck·on·er, nounbeck·on·ing·ly, adverbun·beck·oned, adjective


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

attract, invite, entice, tempt, pull, draw, coax, nod, wave, summon, motion, allure, command, demand, ask, gesticulate, sign, bid, gesture

Examples from the Web for beckon

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Squalor and tragedy can beckon to all that is great in us, and strengthen the wings of love.

    Howards End

    E. M. Forster

  • They can beckon; it is not certain that they will, for they are not love's servants.

    Howards End

    E. M. Forster

  • But they can beckon, and the knowledge of this incredible truth comforted him.

    Howards End

    E. M. Forster

  • He took a step toward her, and the rippling scarf seemed to beckon him on.

    The Prisoner

    Alice Brown

  • The leader will then repeat louder, or beckon to the scout to come in nearer.

    Boy Scouts Handbook

    Boy Scouts of America

British Dictionary definitions for beckon


  1. to summon with a gesture of the hand or head
  2. to entice or lure
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  1. a summoning gesture
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Derived Formsbeckoner, nounbeckoning, adjective, noun

Word Origin

Old English bīecnan, from bēacen sign; related to Old Saxon bōknian; see beacon
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 beckon


Old English gebecnian (West Saxon beacnian) "to make a mute sign," derivative of beacen "a sign, beacon," from Proto-Germanic *bauknjan (cf. Old Saxon boknian, Old High German bouhnen), from PIE root *bha- "to shine" (see beacon). Related: Beckoned; beckoning. The noun is attested from 1718, from the verb.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper