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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English bec, borrowed from Anglo-Norman bec, from Latin beccus, from Gaulish *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).


English Wikipedia has an article on:
  • (UK) IPA(key): /biːk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːk


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, foraging, carrying items, eating food, etc.
    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.
      • 1602, Richard Carew, Survey of Cornwall:
        At the townes end, Cuddenbeak, an ancient house of the Bishops, from a well aduanced Promontory, which intituled it Beak
    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.
    6. (entomology) Any of various nymphalid butterflies of the genus Libythea, notable for the beak-like elongation on their heads.
  3. Colloquial uses.
    1. (slang) The human nose, especially one that is large and pointed.
      • 1926, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Land of Mist[2]:
        "I've told you before now not to push that long, sheeny beak of yours into my affairs."
    2. (slang, Southern England) cocaine.
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.
  3. (intransitive, Northern Ireland) To play truant.
    • 2008 January 11, jemmy hope (username), “Re: Sandy Row”, in Belfast Forum[3]:
      Knew the Jampot well. I spent many an afternoon while I was beaking school in that fine establishment.
    • 2017, Armstrong, Paddy, Life After Life: A Guildford Four Memoir:
      I was living at home at her age, by and large doing what my parents told me, apart from beaking school.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Unknown; originally cant; first recorded in 17thC; probably related to obsolete cant beck "constable".[1][2][3]


beak (plural beaks)

  1. (slang, Britain) A justice of the peace; a magistrate.
    • 1859, George Meredith, chapter XXXVIII, in The Ordeal of Richard Feverel. A History of Father and Son. [], volume (please specify |volume=I to III), London: Chapman and Hall, OCLC 213819910:
      They take up men, Dick, for going about in women's clothes, and vice versaw, I suppose. You'll bail me, old fellaa, if I have to make my bow to the beak, won't you?
    • 1866, Temple Bar: A London Magazine for Town and Country Readers
      Harry looked rather bulky, you know, Tom, and the slop (policeman) says, 'Hallo, what you got here?' and by [blank] he took us both before the beak.
    • 1926, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Land of Mist[4]:
      Thus does history repeat itself, and that foolish beak, with Tom Linden before him, was but Felix judging Paul.
    • 2014 January 24, Matthew Norman, “Hercules of the Yard can fix boorish Britain: There's a long list of possible miscreants for the Essex PC who made a splash over a puddle [print version: 25 January 2014]”, in The Daily Telegraph[5], page 27:
      That an unnamed 22-year-old will be up before the Colchester beak in March under the Road Traffic Act's recherché section 3 – covering inconsiderate driving and with a maximum fine of £5,000 – may at first sight seem a facetious use of court resources.
    • 2014 April 12, Christopher Middleton, “Dream home: one of Chelsea's most historic houses is for sale: We deliver our verdict on a London landmark that comes with an impeccable legal pedigree [print version: What price justice? In this case, a cool £14.5m]”, in The Daily Telegraph (Property)[6], London, page P9:
      In 1854, ill health forced Henry [Fielding] to stop running the organisation that later became the Bow Street Runners, London's first professional police force, and John [Fielding] took over. This despite having lost his sight in a naval accident at the age of 19. He was known as the Blind Beak, and was said to be able to recognise as many as 3,000 criminals by their voices alone.
  2. (slang, British public schools) A schoolmaster (originally, at Eton).
    • 1907, E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey, Part II, XX [Uniform ed., p. 201]:
      It’s easy enough to be a beak when you’re young and athletic, and can offer the latest University smattering. The difficulty is to keep your place when you get old and stiff, and younger smatterers are pushing up behind you. Crawl into a boarding-house and you’re safe. A master’s life is frightfully tragic.


  1. ^ The Century Dictionary [1]
  2. ^ Jonathon Green (2022), “beak”, in Green's Dictionary of Slang
  3. ^ James Lambert The Macquarie Australian Slang Dictionary (Sydney: Macquarie Library) 2004: page 12.
  • Ranko Matasović (2009) Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic, →ISBN, page 60





  1. absolutive plural of be
  2. ergative singular of be