[bel-duh m, -dam]


an old woman, especially an ugly one; hag.
Obsolete. grandmother.

Also bel·dame [bel-duh m, -deym] /ˈbɛl dəm, -ˌdeɪm/.

Origin of beldam

1400–50; late Middle English, equivalent to bel- grand- (< Middle French bel, belle fine; see beau, belle) + dam mother (see dam2) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for beldame

shrew, vixen, scold, harpy, termagant, beldame, amazon, fishwife

Examples from the Web for beldame

Historical Examples of beldame

  • What did the beldame mean by saying, "Keep your secret, and I'll keep mine?"

  • Probably any one of them was strong enough to throw the beldame out at a window.

    The O'Ruddy

    Stephen Crane

  • The beldame has suggested that he must be 'liege-lord of all the elves and fays'.

  • "But I am not content to surrender my Madoc," yelled the beldame.

    Pabo, The Priest

    Sabine Baring-Gould

  • The beldame came in presently, before he had had time to shape his thoughts.

    Mohawks, Volume 3 of 3

    Mary Elizabeth Braddon

British Dictionary definitions for beldame




archaic an old woman, esp an ugly or malicious one; hag
an obsolete word for grandmother

Word Origin for beldam

C15: from bel- grand (as in grandmother), from Old French bel beautiful, from Latin bellus + dam mother, variant of dame
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 beldame



"aged woman," 1570s; earlier "grandmother" (mid-15c.), from dame (q.v.) in the sense of "mother" + bel-, Middle English prefix expressing relationship (cf. belfader, belsire "grandfather"), from Old French bel, belle "beautiful, fair, fine" (see belle). This "direct relationship" sense of bel is not found in French, where the prefix is used to form words for in-laws.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper