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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English beleven, bileven, from Old English belīefan (to believe), from Proto-West Germanic *bilaubijan (to believe), equivalent to be- +‎ leave (to give leave or permission to, permit, allow, grant). Cognate with Scots beleve (to believe), Middle Low German belö̂ven (to believe), Middle High German belouben (to believe).

A related term in Old English was ġelīefan (to be dear to; believe, trust), from Proto-West Germanic *galaubijan (to have faith, believe), from Proto-Germanic *galaubijaną. Compare also 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).

The prepositionally transitive senses with in are a semantic loan from Latin crēdō in aliquem / aliquid.



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).
    Synonym: understand
    If you believe the numbers, you'll agree we need change.
    I believe there are faeries.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Luke 1:1:
      FOꝛaſmuch as many haue taken in hande to ſet fooꝛth in oꝛder a declaration of thoſe things which are most ſurely beleeued among vs []
    • 1898 September, Alexander E. Outerbridge Jr., “Curiosities of American Coinage”, in Popular Science Monthly[1], volume 53, D. Appleton & Company, page 601:
      Many persons believe that the so-called "dollar of the daddies," weighing 412½ grains (nine tenths fine), having a ratio to gold of "16 to 1" in value when first coined, was the original dollar of the Constitution.
    • 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.
    Synonyms: trust, (Cockney rhyming slang) Adam and Eve
    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, 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.
    • 2017 February 1, Stephen Buranyi, quoting Marcel van Assen, “The high-tech war on science fraud”, in The Guardian[2]:
      “Some people believe him charismatic,” Van Assen told me. “I am less sensitive to it.”
  5. (transitive with in)
    1. To ascribe existence to.
      Do you believe in God / the Easter Bunny / ghosts?
      Since I don't believe in reincarnation, I believe that the only way to eliminate suffering is to die.
    2. To believe that (something) is right or desirable.
      I don't believe in sex before marriage.
      I don't believe in making my bed.
    3. To have confidence in the ability or power of.
      I believe in you, man! You can do it!
      • 1972 March 14, Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather, spoken by Bonasera (Salvatore Corsitto), Paramount Pictures:
        I believe in America. America has made my fortune and I raised my daughter in the American fashion.
      • 2008, BioWare, Mass Effect (Science Fiction), Redwood City: Electronic Arts, →ISBN, →OCLC, PC, scene: Citadel:
        Ambassador Udina: The other species are scared. They've never faced anything like this before and they don't know what to do. They want us to step forward. They believe in humanity because of you.
        Ambassador Udina: Your ruthless pursuit of Saren and the geth, your defiance of the Council -- that's what humans are capable of! That's how we can defeat the Reapers!
        Ambassador Udina: The others will follow us, Shepard. They know we're their only hope. We will have a human Council with a human Chairman.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The direct transitive sense and the prepositionally transitive sense 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.
  • This is generally a stative verb that rarely takes the continuous inflection. See Category:English stative verbs


Derived terms[edit]


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.





  1. (dated or formal) singular present subjunctive of believen