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From Middle English beginnen, from Old English beginnan (to begin), from Proto-Germanic *biginnaną (to begin), from be- + base verb *ginnaną also found in Old English onginnan.


  • IPA(key): /bɪˈɡɪn/, /bəˈɡɪn/, /biˈɡɪn/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪn


begin (third-person singular simple present begins, present participle beginning, simple past began, past participle begun)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To start, to initiate or take the first step into something.
    I began playing the piano at the age of five.   Now that everyone is here, we should begin the presentation.
    • a. 1705, John Locke, “An Examination of P[ère] Malebranche’s Opinion of Seeing All Things in God”, in Posthumous Works of Mr. John Locke: [], London: [] A[wnsham] and J[ohn] Churchill, [], published 1706, →OCLC, paragraph 41, page 175:
      The Apoſtle begins our Knowledge in the Creatures, which lead us to the Knowledge of God, if we will make uſe of our Reaſon: [...]
    • 1712 (date written), Alexander Pope, “Messiah. A Sacred Eclogue, in Imitation of Virgil’s Pollio.”, in The Works of Alexander Pope Esq. [], volume I, London: [] J[ohn] and P[aul] Knapton, H. Lintot, J[acob] and R[ichard] Tonson, and S. Draper, published 1751, →OCLC, page 37, lines 1–2:
      Ye Nymphs of Solyma! begin the ſong: / To heav'nly themes ſublimer ſtrains belong.
    • 1897 December (indicated as 1898), Winston Churchill, chapter IV, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., →OCLC, page 48:
      Mr. Cooke at once began a tirade against the residents of Asquith for permitting a sandy and generally disgraceful condition of the roads. So roundly did he vituperate the inn management in particular, and with such a loud flow of words, that I trembled lest he should be heard on the veranda.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 5, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      Of all the queer collections of humans outside of a crazy asylum, it seemed to me this sanitarium was the cup winner. […] When you're well enough off so's you don't have to fret about anything but your heft or your diseases you begin to get queer, I suppose.
    • 2013 June 29, “Unspontaneous combustion”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8842, page 29:
      Since the mid-1980s, when Indonesia first began to clear its bountiful forests on an industrial scale in favour of lucrative palm-oil plantations, “haze” has become an almost annual occurrence in South-East Asia.
  2. (intransitive) To be in the first stage of some situation
    The program begins at 9 o'clock on the dot.    I rushed to get to class on time, but the lesson had already begun.
  3. (intransitive) To come into existence.


Derived terms[edit]



begin (plural begins)

  1. (nonstandard) Beginning; start.





Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle Dutch begin, from Old Dutch *bigin, *bigen, from Proto-Germanic *biginnaz (beginning), from Proto-Germanic *biginniną (to begin). Compare Old Dutch anagen, anagenni (beginning).


begin n (uncountable, diminutive beginnetje n)

  1. start, beginning
  • Negerhollands: begin

Etymology 2[edit]

See the etymology of the corresponding lemma form.



  1. inflection of beginnen:
    1. first-person singular present indicative
    2. imperative


Middle Dutch[edit]


(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)


begin n

  1. beginning, start
  2. origin, source


This noun needs an inflection-table template.


Further reading[edit]



begin (nominative plural begins)

  1. beginning