beat /biːt/

b

I. verb [with obj.]

1. strike (a person or an animal) repeatedly and violently so as to hurt or injure them, typically with an implement such as a club or whip

aristocratic women were often beaten by their husbands
the victims were beaten to death with baseball bats.
2. strike (an object) repeatedly so as to make a noise

he beat the table with his hand.
3. [no obj.] (of an instrument) make a rhythmical sound through being struck

drums were beating in the distance.
4. strike (a carpet, blanket, etc.) repeatedly in order to remove dust.

upright cleaners have a motorized head which beats the carpet to loosen the dirt.
5. flatten or shape (metal) by striking it repeatedly with a hammer

pure gold can be beaten out to form very thin sheets.
6. ( beat something against/on) strike something against (something)

she beat her fists against the wood.
7. [no obj.] strike repeatedly at or on something

Sidney beat on the door with the flat of his hand
Emmie began to beat at the flames.
8. move across (an area of land) repeatedly striking at the ground cover in order to raise game birds for shooting.

they hire boys to beat the Yorkshire moors for game birds.
9. defeat (someone) in a game or other competitive situation

she beat him easily at chess
Juventus were beaten 2–1.
10. overcome (a problem or disease)

the battle to beat car crime
he beat heroin addiction in 1992.
11. do or be better than (a record or score)

he beat his own world record.
12.
‹informal› be better than


you can’t beat the taste of fresh raspberries.

13.
‹informal› baffle


it beats me how you manage to work in this heat.

14. succeed in getting somewhere ahead of (someone)

the defender beat him to the ball.
15. take action to avoid (difficulty or inconvenience)

they set off early to beat the traffic.
16. [no obj.] (of the heart) pulsate

her heart beat faster with panic.
17. (of a bird) move (the wings) up and down.

doves wheel around the rooftops, beating their wings.
18. [no obj.] (of a bird) fly making rhythmic wing movements

an owl beat low over the salt marsh.
19. stir (cooking ingredients) vigorously to make a smooth or frothy mixture.

beat the butter until light and fluffy.
beat the cream into the mixture.
20. ( beat it)
‹informal› leave

[in imperative]

now beat it, will you!
21. [no obj., with adverbial of direction]
[Sailing] sail into the wind, following a zigzag course with repeated tacking

we beat southwards all that first day.
II. noun

1. a main accent or rhythmic unit in music or poetry

the glissando begins on the second beat.
2. a strong rhythm in popular music

the music changed to a funky disco beat.
3. [in sing.] a regular, rhythmic sound or movement

the beat of the wipers became almost hypnotic.
4. the sound made when something, especially a musical instrument, is struck

he heard a regular drum beat.
5. a pulsation of the heart.
6. a periodic variation of sound or amplitude due to the combination of two sounds, electrical signals, or other vibrations having similar but not identical frequencies.
7. the movement of a bird’s wings.

the beat of the swallow’s wings as they dive after midges.
8. an area allocated to a police officer and patrolled on foot

his beat was in North London
public clamour for more policemen on the beat.
9. a spell of duty allocated to a police officer

his beat ended at 6 a.m.
10. an area regularly frequented by someone.

a few, new to their beat, looked at him with interest.
11.
‹informal› a person’s area of interest

his beat is construction, property, and hotels.
12. a stretch of water fished by an angler.

you don’t necessarily have to fish on the priciest beats to find good sport.
13. a brief pause or moment of hesitation

she waited for a beat of three seconds.
[from the use of a stage direction referring to such a pause.]
14.
‹informal› short for beatnik.
III. adjective

1. [ predic.]
‹informal› completely exhausted

I’m beat—I need an hour or so to rest.
2. [ attrib.] relating to the beat generation or its philosophy

beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
IV. phrases

1. beat about the bush
discuss a matter without coming to the point.

he never beat about the bush when something was annoying him.
2. beat someone at their own game
see game1.
3. beat the bounds

‹historical› mark parish boundaries by walking round them and striking certain points with rods.

a large procession, headed by the clergyman, would beat the bounds over a period of two days.
4. beat one’s breast
see breast.
5. beat the bushes

(N. Amer.)
‹informal› search thoroughly

I was out beating the bushes for investors to split the risk.
6. beat the clock
perform a task quickly or within a fixed time limit.

frozen mixed vegetables help you beat the clock with this soup.
7. beat the drum for
see drum1.
8. be beaten at the post
be defeated at the last moment.
9. beat one’s (or the) meat

‹vulgar slang› (of a man) masturbate.
10. beat the pants off

‹informal› prove to be vastly superior to.

it’s an ugly lump of plastic, but it sure beats the pants off the UK model.
11. beat a path to someone’s door
(of a large number of people) hasten to make contact with someone regarded as interesting or inspiring.

the students and their professors beat a path to his door.
12. beat a (hasty) retreat
withdraw quickly in order to avoid something unpleasant.

as the bombs started to go off, they beat a hasty retreat across the field.
13. beat the system
succeed in finding a means of getting round rules, regulations, or other means of control.

it may be that we secretly admire those who try to beat the system.
14. beat time
indicate or follow a musical tempo with a baton or other means.
15. beat someone to it
succeed in doing something or getting somewhere before someone else.

you’d better get a move on or they’ll beat you to it.
16. if you can’t beat them, join them

‹humorous› if you are unable to outdo rivals in some endeavour, you might as well cooperate with them and thereby possibly gain an advantage.
17. to beat all ——s
infinitely better than all the things of the specified type

a PC screen saver to beat all screen savers.
18. to beat the band

(N. Amer.)
‹informal› in such a way as to surpass all competition

they were talking to beat the band.
V. phrasal verbs

1. beat someone back
force (someone trying to do something) to retreat

I was beaten back by the flames.
2. beat down
a. (of the sun) radiate intense heat and brightness.

the sun beat down on them with fiery intensity.
b. (of rain) fall hard and continuously.

the rain continued to beat down on him.
3. beat something down
a. quell defence or resistance.

the senator had beaten down my last defence.
b. fight to suppress a feeling or emotion.

she beat down a gush of self-pity.
4. beat someone down
force someone to reduce the price of something.

I had at least attempted to beat him down on the charter price.
5. beat off

‹vulgar slang› (of a man) masturbate.
6. beat someone/thing off
a. succeed in resisting an attacker or an attack.

we beat off the raiders with sticks and broom handles.
b. win against a challenge or rival.

the firm had beaten off competition from 260 other submissions.
7. beat something out
a. produce a loud, rhythmic sound by striking something

he beat out a rhythm on the drums.
b. extinguish flames by striking at them with a suitable object.

he made a frantic dash to grab an armful of branches and beat out the flames.
8. beat someone up
a. assault and injure someone by hitting, kicking, or punching them repeatedly.

they threatened to beat him up if he didn’t hand over the money.
b. ( beat oneself up)
‹informal› reproach or criticize oneself excessively.
9. beat up on someone
North American way of saying beat someone up.
VI. derivatives

beatable
adjective


– origin Old English bēatan, of Germanic origin.

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