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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English beleven, bileven, from Old English belīefan (to believe), a later variant to Proto-Germanic *galaubijaną (to have faith, believe). Cognate with Scots beleve (to believe). Compare Old English ġelīefan (to be dear to; believe, trust), Old English ġelēafa (belief, faith, confidence, trust), Old English lēof ("dear, valued, beloved, pleasant, agreeable"; > English lief). Related also to North Frisian leauwjen (to believe), West Frisian leauwe (to believe), Dutch geloven (to believe), German glauben (to believe), Gothic 𐌲𐌰𐌻𐌰𐌿𐌱𐌾𐌰𐌽 (galaubjan, to hold dear, valuable, or satisfactory, approve of, believe).



believe (third-person singular simple present believes, present participle believing, simple past and past participle believed)

  1. (transitive) To accept as true, particularly without absolute certainty (i.e., as opposed to knowing)
    If you believe the numbers, you'll agree we need change.
    I believe there are faeries.
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Luke 1:1:
      Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us []
    • 2014 June 21, “Magician’s brain”, in The Economist, volume 411, number 8892:
      [Isaac Newton] was obsessed with alchemy. He spent hours copying alchemical recipes and trying to replicate them in his laboratory. He believed that the Bible contained numerological codes.
  2. (transitive) To accept that someone is telling the truth.
    Why did I ever believe you?
  3. (intransitive) To have religious faith; to believe in a greater truth.
    After that night in the church, I believed.
    • 1604, Jeremy Corderoy, A Short Dialogve, wherein is Proved, that No Man can be Saved without Good VVorkes, 2nd edition, Oxford: Printed by Ioseph Barnes, and are to be sold in Paules Church-yard at the signe of the Crowne, by Simon Waterson, OCLC 55185654, page 40:
      [N]ow ſuch a liue vngodly, vvithout a care of doing the wil of the Lord (though they profeſſe him in their mouths, yea though they beleeue and acknowledge all the Articles of the Creed, yea haue knowledge of the Scripturs) yet if they liue vngodly, they deny God, and therefore ſhal be denied, []
  4. (transitive) To opine, think, reckon
    Do you think this is good?
    Hmm, I believe it's okay.


Usage notes[edit]

  • The transitive verb believe and the phrasal verb believe in are similar but can have very different implications.
    • To “believe” someone or something means to accept specific pieces of information as truth: believe the news, believe the lead witness. To “believe a complete stranger” means to accept a stranger's story with little evidence.
    • To “believe in” someone or something means to hold confidence and trust in that person or concept: believe in liberty, believe in God. To “believe in one's fellow man” means to place trust and confidence in mankind.
  • Meanings sometimes overlap. To believe in a religious text would also require affirming the truth of at least the major tenets. To believe a religious text might likewise imply placing one's confidence and trust in it, in addition to accepting its statements as facts.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.





  1. (archaic) singular present subjunctive of believen