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See also: behøve



From Middle English behoven, bihọ̄ven (to be necessary, requisite; to be compelled or required (to do something)), from Old English behōfaþ, behōfode,[1] behōfian (to need; to be necessary), from behōf (advantage, behoof, profit; need), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *keh₂p- (to grab, seize). The word is cognate with Dutch behoeven (to need), obsolete German behufen (cf. Behuf), Danish behøve (to need), Norwegian behøve (to need), Swedish behöva (to have use for, to need).



behove (third-person singular simple present behoves, present participle behoving, simple past and past participle behoved)

  1. (transitive, formal) To befit, to suit.
    • 1560, [John Knox et al.], “Confessio Fidei Scoticana I. The Scotch Confession of Faith. A.D. 1560.”, in The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes. [...] In Three Volumes, volume III (The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations), 4th revised and enlarged edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, published 1877, OCLC 717752157, Art. VIII (Of Election), page 445, column 1:
      It behooved that the Sonne of God suld descend unto us, and tak himselfe a bodie of our bodie, flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bones, and so become the Mediator betwixt God and man, giving power to so many as beleeve in him, to be the sonnes of God; []
    • 1711 December 26, “Devide et impera. Divide and Rule.”, in The Spectator, number 258; republished in A[lexander] Chalmers, The Spectator: With a Historical and Biographical Preface. [...] In Eight Volumes, volume IV, Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown and Company, 1856, OCLC 995557693, pages 140–141:
      [W]here therefore public diversions are tolerated, it behoves persons of distinction, with their power and example, to preside over them in such a manner as to check any thing that tends to the corruption of manners, or which is too mean or trivial for the entertainment of reasonable creatures.
    • 1803 April 21, “Crito” [pseudonym; Thomas Jefferson], “Letter, &c., on the Doctrine of Jesus, by an Eminent American Statesman [written to Benjamin Rush]”, in The Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature, volume XI, number CXXX, Hackney, London: Printed for the editor, by Ann Stower, published by Sherwood, Neely and Jones, Paternoster Row, published October 1816, OCLC 231705566, letter II, page 574, column 2:
      It behoves every man, who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; it behoves him too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the common right of independent opinion, by answering questions of faith, which laws have left between God and himself.
    • 1874, Bret Harte, “Cadet Grey”, in The Poetical Works of Bret Harte, complete edition, Boston, Mass.: Houghton, Mifflin and Company; The Riverside Press, Cambridge [Mass.], OCLC 14577366, canto II, stanza XX, page 369:
      Straighter he stood, and had achieved some praise / In other exercise, much more behooving / A soldier's taste than merely dirt removing.
    • 1936 October, A[lfred] E[dward] Housman; Laurence Housman, compiler, “[Poem] II”, in More Poems, London: Jonathan Cape, Thirty Bedford Square, OCLC 25469231, stanza 3, lines 9–12, page 16:
      I never over Horeb heard / The blast of advent blow; / No fire-faced prophet brought me word / Which way behoved me go.
    • 2002 May 9, Douglas Roche, “Standing Commitee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade: Evidence [37th Parliament, 1st session, meeting 82]”, in standing committee proceedings, House of Commons of Canada[1], archived from the original on 6 April 2018, columns {{{columns}}}:
      I think it ill behooves the Government of Canada, let alone all the people like us in Canada, to pretend that there are not these distinctions in how each of us approaches questions of security.
    • 2002 October 21, Donald Macintyre, “Even at this late hour, the Government can avoid this damaging strike: Professor Bain should be urged to burn the midnight oil and bring out his report before the strikes start to threaten lives”, in The Independent[2], London, archived from the original on 6 April 2018:
      True, it ill behoves national newspaper columnists and MPs, let alone Prime Ministers, to start pontificating about how men – and hitherto a too tiny handful of women – shouldn't be paid £30,000 a year to risk their lives by going into burning buildings when everybody else is leaving them.
    • 2003 November 3, Tariq Ali, “Resistance is the first step towards Iraqi independence”, in The Guardian[3], London, archived from the original on 22 February 2017:
      Nor does it behove western commentators whose countries are occupying Iraq to lay down conditions for those opposing it.
    • 2015, Dan Casey, “Avengers Mansion”, in 100 Things Avengers Fans Should Know & Do before They Die, Chicago, Ill.: Triumph Books, →ISBN, page 185:
      [] Thor and Iron Man pushed the [Avengers] Mansion back roughly 35 feet from Fifth Avenue in order to give the Mansion a front yard (and the privacy that comes along with it). Let's face it—it wouldn't behoove Earth's Mightiest Heroes to have to put those ugly wrought-iron bars on their ground-floor windows in order to prevent petty theft.
  2. (transitive, formal) To be necessary for (someone).
    • 1859, Charles Dickens, “The Fellow of Delicacy”, in A Tale of Two Cities, book II (The Golden Thread), London: Chapman and Hall, [], OCLC 906152507, page 93:
      Accordingly, Mr. Stryver inaugurated the Long Vacation with a formal proposal to take Miss Manette to Vauxhall Gardens; that failing, to Ranelagh; that unaccountably failing too, it behoved him to present himself in Soho, and there declare his noble mind.
    • 2007, Gary D. Schmidt, “May”, in The Wednesday Wars, New York, N.Y.: Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Company, →ISBN, page 208:
      Behooves”? said Danny. / “Becomes necessary, Mr. Hupfer,” said Mrs. Baker, “as in ‘It behooves us to raise our hands before we ask a question’. Now, can anyone tell me what the adjectival form would be?”
  3. (transitive, formal) To be in the best interest of; to benefit.
    • 1866, John W. Walton, Dora; or, The Baron’s Ward. A Drama, in Three Acts, London: Printed by Walter Brettell, 336A, Oxford Street, OCLC 867925484, Act I, scene iii, page 21:
      Seeing by the late alliance termed the Rhenish Confederacy, that Louis, King of France, has the most cunning and diabolic intentions on the Imperial Crown, thereby behoving all Germans to unite in a band of brotherhood.

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  1. ^ bihọ̄ven, v.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 6 April 2018.

Middle English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


From Old English behōfe.


behove (uncountable)

  1. Benefit, advantage.
  2. Duty.

Usage notes[edit]

This term is typically found as part of a dative phrase beginning with to, unto or at; e.g., “to þy behove” means “to your advantage".


Related terms[edit]