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Middle English bec, from Anglo-Norman, from Latin beccus, from Gaulish beccus, *bekkos, from Proto-Celtic *bekkos (beak, snout), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *bak-, *baḱ- (pointed stick, peg). Cognate with Breton beg (beak).


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beak (plural beaks)

An Australasian Darter with her beak wide open
  1. A rigid structure projecting from the front of a bird's face, used for pecking, grooming and for eating food.
  2. A similar structure forming the jaws of an octopus, turtle, etc.
  3. The long projecting sucking mouth of some insects and other invertebrates, as in the Hemiptera.
  4. The upper or projecting part of the shell, near the hinge of a bivalve.
  5. The prolongation of certain univalve shells containing the canal.
  6. (nautical) The metal point fixed on the bows of a war galley, used as a ram.
  7. (slang) A justice of the peace, magistrate, headmaster or other person of authority.
    He's up before the beak again tomorrow.
    I clapp'd my peepers full of tears, and so the old beak set me free; I began to weep, and the judge set me free.
  8. (slang) The human nose, especially one that is large and pointed.
  9. Anything projecting or ending in a point, like a beak, such as a promontory of land.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Carew to this entry?)
  10. A beam, shod or armed at the end with a metal head or point, and projecting from the prow of an ancient galley, in order to pierce the vessel of an enemy; a beakhead.
  11. (nautical) That part of a ship, before the forecastle, which is fastened to the stem, and supported by the main knee.
  12. (architecture) A continuous slight projection ending in an arris or narrow fillet; that part of a drip from which the water is thrown off.
  13. (botany) Any process somewhat like the beak of a bird, terminating the fruit or other parts of a plant.
  14. (farriery) A toe clip.


  • (rigid structure projecting from a bird's face): bill
  • (human nose): schnozzle

Derived terms[edit]



beak (third-person singular simple present beaks, present participle beaking, simple past and past participle beaked)

  1. (transitive) strike with the beak.
  2. (transitive) seize with the beak.

See also[edit]



  • 2009, Ranko Matasović, Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic, page 60: