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From Middle English bestowen, bistowen; equivalent to be- (on, over, about) +‎ stow (to put something away).



bestow (third-person singular simple present bestows, present participle bestowing, simple past and past participle bestowed)

  1. (transitive) To lay up in store; deposit for safe keeping; to stow or place; to put something somewhere.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, Hamlet:
      Her father and myself, ⟨lawful espials,⟩ ⟨Will⟩ so bestow ourselves that, seeing unseen, We may of their encounter frankly judge And gather by him, as he is behaved, If 't be th' affliction of his love or no That thus he suffers for.
    • 1611, King James Bible, Luke 12:17:
      And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits.
    • 1977, J.R.R. Tolkien, Of the Rings of Power, HarperCollins, page 358:
      Of the Three Rings that the Elves had preserved unsullied no open word was ever spoken among the Wise, and few even of the Eldar knew where they were bestowed.
  2. (transitive) To lodge, or find quarters for; provide with accommodation.
  3. (transitive) To dispose of.
    • 1615-17, Thomas Middleton et al., The Widow, in The Ancient British drama, edited by Robert Dodsley, Sir Walter Scott, published 1810:
      Here are blank warrants of all dispositions; give me but the name and nature of your malefactor, and I'll bestow him according to his merits.
    • 1645-46, Fast sermons to Parliament, page 129:
      Ye seek your selves in you praiers, Ye ask that ye may consume it upon your lusts; you would have the blessings of God to bestow them upon your pleasures, not to do his pleasure.
    • 1734, The Gentleman's Magazine, Or, Monthly Intelligencer - Volume 4, page 505:
      Richmond, thy purling streams and pleasing shades, Might claim the chorus of Aonian maids ; Where e'en Apollo might his hours bestow, By turns employ his lyre, by turns his bow, Where all the pleasures dwell, which poets feign On fair Arcadia's fields or Tempe's plain.
  4. (transitive) To give; confer; impart gratuitously; present something to someone or something, especially as a gift or honour.
    Medals were bestowed on the winning team.
    • 1831, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
      Soft tears again bedewed my cheeks, and I even raised my humid eyes with thankfulness towards the blessed sun which bestowed such joy upon me.
    • 1873, Mrs. Alexander, The Wooing O'T: A Novel, page 250:
      Sometimes I am caught by a delightful fragment in a magazine, and blaze up into the fiercest interest, bestow maledictions on the delay which the intervening month creates, but am burnt out by the time it expires, and so lose the thread.
    • 1930, Norman Lindsay, Redheap, Sydney: Ure Smith, published 1965, page 82:
      "Do they not sneakingly bestow on me their crass inability to do anything with their own misbegotten progeny, a subterfuge which I scornfully fub off on text-books?"
    • 2008, Illiad,, “The Large Hadron Collider Game
      CERN bestows slush fund on the LHC. Take all pennies from the CERN space.
  5. (transitive) To give in marriage.
    • 1590-92, William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Act 1, Scene 1, lines 50-51:
      That is not to bestow my youngest daughter/ before I have a husband for the elder.
    • 1709, Joseph Addison, The Tatler, number 75:
      I could have bestowed her upon a fine gentleman.
  6. (transitive) To apply; make use of; use; employ.
    • 1734, The Gentleman's Magazine, Or, Monthly Intelligencer - Volume 4:
      Here 'tis worth while to bestow a few more Reflections upon that extraordinary Piece of barbarous Cruelty against their Country under the Character of Rufinus.
    • 1850, Charles Knight & John Leighton, Half Hours with the Best Authors, page 290:
      All the void time that is between the hours of work, sleep, and meat, that they be suffered to bestow every man as he liketh best himself.
    • 1887, John Marston, Arthur Henry Bullen, The Works of John Marston:
      [...] I determine to bestow Some time in learning languages abroad; [...]
  7. (transitive, obsolete) To behave or deport.
    • 1597, William Shakespeare, Henry IV, part 1:
      How might we see Falstaff bestow himself to-night in his true colours?
    • 1750, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, & Mr. Theobald (Lewis), The Works of Mr. Francis Beaumont, and Mr. John Fletcher, page 448:
      By this light, Sir, (But that I never will bestow myself But to your liking) if she now would have me, I now would marry her.
    • 1883, Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy:
      And thence it comes to pass, that in city and country so many grievances of body and mind, and this feral disease of melancholy so frequently rageth, and now domineers almost all over Europe amongst our great ones. They know not how to spend their time (disports excepted, which are all their business), what to do, or otherwise how to bestow themselves ; like our modern Frenchmen, that had rather lose a pound of blood in a single combat, than a drop of sweat in any honest labour.

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