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From 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). Compare Saterland Frisian Bäk ‎(mouth; muzzle; beak); Dutch bek ‎(beak; bill; neb).


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beak ‎(plural beaks)

An Australasian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae) with her beak wide open
  1. Anatomical uses.
    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. (botany) Any process somewhat like the beak of a bird, terminating the fruit or other parts of a plant.
  2. Figurative uses.
    1. 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?)
    2. (architecture) A continuous slight projection ending in an arris or narrow fillet; that part of a drip from which the water is thrown off.
    3. (farriery) A toe clip.
    4. (nautical) That part of a ship, before the forecastle, which is fastened to the stem, and supported by the main knee.
    5. (nautical) A beam, shod or armed at the end with a metal head or point, and projecting from the prow of an ancient galley, used as a ram to pierce the vessel of an enemy; a beakhead.
  3. Colloquial uses.
    1. (slang) The human nose, especially one that is large and pointed.
    2. (slang, Britain) 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)


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.



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