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Etymology 1[edit]

A beaver (sense 1)

From Middle English bever, from Old English befer, from Proto-West Germanic *bebru, from Proto-Germanic *bebruz, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰébʰrus (beaver).

Cognate with West Frisian bever, Dutch bever, French bièvre, German Biber, dialectal Swedish bjur. Non-Germanic cognates include Welsh befer, Latin fiber, Lithuanian bẽbras, Russian бобр (bobr), Avestan 𐬠𐬀𐬎𐬎𐬭𐬀(bauura), and Sanskrit बभ्रु (bábhru, mongoose; ichneumon).


beaver (countable and uncountable, plural beavers or (senses 1 and 4) beaver)

  1. (countable) A semiaquatic rodent of the genus Castor, having a wide, flat tail and webbed feet.
    • 1591, Edmund Spenser, “Prosopopoia; or, Mother Hubberd’s Tale”, in Edmund Spenser, edited by Charles Cowden Clarke, The Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser[1], Edinburgh: William P. Nimmo, published 1868, page 112, lines 1117–1126:
      Then, for the safeguard of his personage,
      He did appoint a warlike equipage
      Of foreign beasts, not in the forest bred,
      But part by land and part by water fed;
      For tyranny is with strange aid supported.
      Then unto him all monstrous beasts resorted
      Bred of two kinds, as Griffons, Minotaurs,
      Crocodiles, Dragons, Beavers, and Centaurs:
      With those himself he strengthened mightily,
      That fear he need no force of enemy.
  2. The fur of the beaver.
    Synonym: castorette
  3. (countable) A hat, of various shapes, made from a felted beaver fur (or later of silk), fashionable in Europe between 1550 and 1850.
    Synonyms: castor, (archaic) castoreum
    • 1855–1858, William H[ickling] Prescott, History of the Reign of Philip the Second, King of Spain, volumes (please specify |volume=I to III), Boston, Mass.: Phillips, Sampson, and Company, →OCLC:
      a broad beaver slouched over his eyes
    • 1896, Owen Rhoscomyl, For the White Rose of Arno:
      The woman's hair and woman's beaver had both been jerked off, exposing the cropped head of a man...
  4. (Canada, US) Beaver pelts as an article of exchange or as a standard of value.
  5. Beaver cloth, a heavy felted woollen cloth, used chiefly for making overcoats.
    Synonym: castor
  6. A brown colour, like that of a beaver.
    Synonyms: beaver brown, castor
  7. (countable, backgammon) A move in response to being doubled, in which one immediately doubles the stakes again, keeping the doubling cube on one’s own side of the board.
  8. Alternative letter-case form of Beaver (member of the youngest wing of the Scout movement).
Derived terms[edit]
See also[edit]


beaver (third-person singular simple present beavers, present participle beavering, simple past and past participle beavered)

  1. To work hard.
    • 2017, Felicity Heal, “Changing Interpretations of the British Reformations”, in Ulinka Rublack, editor, The Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations, Oxford: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 234:
      When A. G. Dickens published his English Reformation in 1964 the archival beavering of a generation of graduate students was given its imprimatur in the claim to understand how the English people felt about religious change—largely, according to Dickens, positively.
  2. (logging, slang) To cut a continuous ring around a tree that one is felling.
  3. (backgammon) After being doubled, to immediately double the stakes again, a move that keeps the doubling cube on one’s own side of the board.
Usage notes[edit]

Sense 1 is most frequently used in constructions such as beaver around, beaver away, and beaver on.

Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

See bevor.


beaver (plural beavers)

  1. Alternative spelling of bevor (part of a helmet).
    • c. 1591–1592 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Third Part of Henry the Sixt, []”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene i]:
      Lord Stafford’s father, Duke of Buckingham,
      Is either slain or wounded dangerously;
      I cleft his beaver with a downright blow:
    • 1600, Edward Fairfax, The Jerusalem Delivered of Tasso, XII, lxvii:
      With trembling hands her beaver he untied, / Which done, he saw, and seeing knew her face.
    • 1819, Walter Scott, Ivanhoe:
      Without alighting from his horse, the conqueror called for a bowl of wine, and opening the beaver, or lower part of his helmet, announced that he quaffed it, “To all true English hearts, and to the confusion of foreign tyrants.”
    • 1951 Adaptation of the 1885 Ormsby translation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, correcting Ormsby as to the portion of the helmet referred to by Cervantes (see note 11 to chapter II) at the suggestion of Juan Hartzenbusch, a 19th-century director of the National Library of Spain.
      They laid a table for him at the door of the inn for the sake of the air, and the host brought him a portion of ill-soaked and worse cooked stockfish, and a piece of bread as black and mouldy as his own armour; but a laughble sight it was to see him eating, for having his helmet on and the beaver up, he could not with his own hands put anything into his mouth unless some one else placed it there, and this service one of the ladies rendered him.
    • 1974, Lawrence Durrell, Monsieur, or the Prince of Darkness, Faber & Faber, published 1992, page 128:
      As each one brings a little of himself to what he sees you brought the trappings of your historic preoccupations, so that Monsieur flattered you by presenting himself with beaver up like Hamlet's father's ghost!

Etymology 3[edit]


beaver (UK, thieves’ cant, obsolete)

  1. Butter.
    • [1754, The Scoundrel’s Dictionary, London, page 15:
      Butter – Beaver.]

Etymology 4[edit]


beaver (third-person singular simple present beavers, present participle beavering, simple past and past participle beavered)

  1. To form a felt-like texture, similar to the way beaver fur is used for felt-making.
    • 1799, Arthur Young, General View of the Agriculture of the County of Lincoln, London, page 155:
      Without these attentions the woad will not beaver well, a term descriptive of the fineness of the capillary filaments into which it draws out when broken between the finger and thumb.

Etymology 5[edit]


beaver (countable and uncountable, plural beavers) (slang)

  1. Referring to a beard.
    1. (countable) A beard or a bearded person.
      Synonyms: beard, beardo, beardy
      • 1936, P. G. Wodehouse, Laughing Gas:
        The beards were false ones. I could see the elastic going over their ears. In other words, I had fallen among a band of criminals who were not wilful beavers, but had merely assumed the fungus for purposes of disguise.
    2. (uncountable, historical) A game, in which points are scored by spotting beards.
  2. (countable) Referring to the genital area or a woman.
    1. (chiefly Canada, US) The pubic hair near a vulva or a vulva itself; (attributively) denoting films or literature featuring nude women.
      Synonyms: beav, (vulgar) nest
    2. (US, offensive) A woman, especially one who is sexually attractive.
      • 1977 January 13, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, “Jimmy Carter: New South Burn”, in Rolling Stone[3], [San Francisco or New York], retrieved December 1, 2022:
        “10-4, Beaver [CB talk for a female], we’re all going down to Plains tomorrow after Jimmy Carter wins.”
Alternative forms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]


beaver (third-person singular simple present beavers, present participle beavering, simple past and past participle beavered) (slang)

  1. To spot a beard in a game of beaver.
    • 1922 October 13, Roanoke World-News[4], Roanoke, Virginia, retrieved December 2, 2022, page 6:
      Beavering of foreign visitors does not count. This is a rule, but it is never carried out.


Further reading[edit]