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From Middle English bitoknen, bitacnen, from Old English betācnian (to betoken, signify, designate). Equivalent to be- +‎ token. Cognate with Dutch betekenen (to mean, signify), German bezeichnen (to call, designate), Swedish beteckna (to represent, designate, indicate) and Danish betegne (to represent, designate, indicate).


  • IPA(key): /bɪˈtoʊ.kən/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -əʊkən


betoken (third-person singular simple present betokens, present participle betokening, simple past and past participle betokened)

  1. (transitive) To signify by some visible object; show by signs or tokens.
  2. (transitive) To foreshow by present signs; indicate something future by that which is seen or known.
    • 1853: Virgil, Charles Anthon, LL.D. [tr.], Æneïd of Virgil: With English Notes, Critical and Explanatory, a Metrical Clavis: And an Historical, Geographical, and Mythological Index, page 474 (Harper & Brothers, 329 & 331 Pearl Street, Franklin Square, New York)
      “ Ah ! hospitable land, thou (nevertheless) betokenest war,” i. e., although hospitable, thou nevertheless betokenest war. — Bello.
    • 1963 July, “News and Comment: Second thoughts on Liner trains?”, in Modern Railways, page 5:
      Since the Report was published there has been a rather unnatural absence of follow-up propaganda for the Liner trains, which seems to betoken a disinclination to embark on the heavy expenditure involved until a long-term patronage of the projected services has been assured.