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From Middle English biheste, from Old English behǣs (vow, promise), from Proto-West Germanic *bihaisi, from *bi- (be-) +‎ *haisi (command), from Proto-Germanic *haisiz, from *haitaną (to command). Final -t by analogy with other similar words in -t. Related to Old English behātan (to command, promise), Middle Low German beheit, behēt (a promise). Compare also hest (command), hight.



behest (plural behests)

  1. A command, bidding; sometimes also, an authoritative request; now usually in the phrase at the behest of. [from 12th c.]
    • c. 1587–1588, [Christopher Marlowe], Tamburlaine the Great. [] The First Part [], 2nd edition, part 1, London: [] [R. Robinson for] Richard Iones, [], published 1592, →OCLC; reprinted as Tamburlaine the Great (A Scolar Press Facsimile), Menston, Yorkshire, London: Scolar Press, 1973, →ISBN, Act III, scene i:
      Moſt great and puiſant Monarke of the earth,
      Your Baſſoe wil accompliſh your beheſt: []
    • 1805, Walter Scott, “(please specify the page)”, in The Lay of the Last Minstrel: A Poem, London: [] [James Ballantyne] for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, [], and A[rchibald] Constable and Co., [], →OCLC:
      to do his master's high behest
    • 1886, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, translated by H.L. Brækstad, Folk and Fairy Tales, page 302:
      I have spells for the north, I have charms for the west, / And the south and the east must obey my behest.
    • 1951, Geoffrey Chaucer, translated by Nevill Coghill, The Canterbury Tales: Translated into Modern English (Penguin Classics), Penguin Books, published 1977, page 278:
      Paul did not dare pronounce, let matters rest, / His master having given him no behest.
    • 1961 May, “Talking of Trains: Stourton and Stafford approved”, in Trains Illustrated, page 260:
      The London Midland Region has announced receipt of authority from the Ministry of Transport to resume the reconstruction of Stafford station and layout, interrupted at the Minister's behest; contracts have now been placed for the erection of the new station buildings and the yardmaster's office.
    • 2007, Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day:
      And young Mr. Fleetwood Vibe was here at the behest of his father, Wall Street eminence Scarsdale Vibe, who was effectively bankrolling the Expedition.
    • 2009 October 15, “What a waste”, in The Economist:
      the House of Representatives will try to water down even this feeble effort at the behest of the unions whose members enjoy some of the most lavish policies.
    • 2011 March 24, Owen Gibson, The Guardian:
      The Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, is to meet with the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, at the behest of the Premier League in a bid to resolve their long-running feud.
  2. (obsolete) A vow; a promise.
    • c. 1440, Markaryte Paston, letter to John Paston
      The time is come that I should send it her, if I keep the behest that I have made.



behest (third-person singular simple present behests, present participle behesting, simple past and past participle behested)

  1. (obsolete) To promise; vow.