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From Middle English bespeken, bispeken, from Old English *bespecan, besprecan (to speak about, speak against, accuse of, claim at law, complain), from Proto-Germanic *bisprekaną (to discuss, blame), equivalent to be- +‎ speak. Cognate with Scots bespeke (to beseech, speak or negotiate with), West Frisian besprekke (to discuss), Dutch bespreken (to discuss, review, debate), German besprechen (to discuss, review, talk about).


  • IPA(key): /bɪˈspiːk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːk


bespeak (third-person singular simple present bespeaks, present participle bespeaking, simple past bespoke or (archaic) bespake, past participle bespoken or (archaic) bespoke)

  1. (transitive) To speak about; tell of; relate; discuss.
    • 1711, Jonathan Swift, The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift, Volume 3, The Examiner, Number 44, page 244
      [They] bespoke dangers [] in order to scare the allies.
    • 2006, Janet Jaymes, Dirty Laundry: A Memoir:
      But to bespeak of a love, heavily weighed upon a heart, toward someone opposing those sentiments encourages foolish and embarrassing repercussions he will never know about.
  2. (transitive) To speak for beforehand; engage in advance; make arrangements for; order or reserve in advance.
    • 1819, Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe
      concluding, naturally, that to gratify his avarice was to bespeak his favour
    • 1859, Charles Dickens, The Haunted House
      I walked on into the village, with the desertion of this house upon my mind, and I found the landlord of the little inn, sanding his door-step. I bespoke breakfast, and broached the subject of the house.
  3. (transitive) To stipulate, solicit, ask for, or request, as in a favour.
    to bespeak a calm hearing;  I bespeak your patience in advance.
  4. (transitive, archaic) To forbode; foretell.
  5. (transitive, archaic, poetic) To speak to; address.
  6. (transitive) To betoken; show; indicate; foretell; suggest; allude to.
    This act bespeaks his kindness.
    • 1689 (indicated as 1690), [John Locke], chapter 3, in An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. [], London: [] Eliz[abeth] Holt, for Thomas Basset, [], OCLC 153628242:
      When the abbot of St. Martin was born, he had so little the figure of a man that it bespake him rather a monster.
    • 1910, Emerson Hough, chapter I, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 639762314, page 0108:
      This new-comer was a man who in any company would have seemed striking. [] He was smooth-faced, and his fresh skin and well-developed figure bespoke the man in good physical condition through active exercise, yet well content with the world's apportionment.
    • 1921, Printers' Ink, Volume 114, Page 50:
      Are they telling your story vividly, strikingly, in designs that command attention, in colors that bespeak distinction?
    • 1961 February, Cecil J. Allen, “Locomotive Running Past and Present”, in Trains Illustrated, page 87:
      [...] the drop in speed only from 66 to 53 m.p.h. up the six miles at 1 in 176-200-167 to Saunderton summit bespoke a hard effort, [...]
  7. (intransitive) To speak up or out; exclaim; speak.

Derived terms[edit]



bespeak (plural bespeaks)

  1. A request for a specific performance; a benefit performance, by a patron.
    • 1839, Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby
      "By the bye, I've been thinking of bringing out that piece of yours on her bespeak night."
      "When?", asked Nicholas.
      "The night of her bespeak. Her benefit night. When her friends and patrons bespeak the play."
      "Oh! I understand", replied Nicholas.


Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for bespeak in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)




  • IPA(key): /bəˈspɪk/
  • (North Northern Scots) IPA(key): /bəˈspɛk/


bespeak (third-person singular present bespeaks, present participle bespeakin, past bespak, past participle bespoken)

  1. to bespeak