beg /bɛɡ/


I. verb

1. [ reporting verb] ask someone earnestly or humbly for something

[with obj.]

he begged his fellow passengers for help
[with obj. and infinitive]
she begged me to say nothing to her father
[no obj.]
I must beg of you not to act impulsively.
2. [with obj.] ask for (something) earnestly or humbly

he begged their forgiveness.
3. [with obj.] ask formally for (permission to do something)

I will now beg leave to make some observations
[no obj., with infinitive]
I beg to second the motion.
4. [no obj.] ask for food or money as charity

a young woman was begging in the street
they had to beg for food.
5. [with obj.] acquire (food or money) from someone by begging

a piece of bread which I begged from a farmer.
6. (of a dog) sit up with the front paws raised expectantly in the hope of a reward.
II. phrases

1. beg one’s bread

‹archaic› live by begging.
2. beg the question
a. (of a fact or action) raise a point that has not been dealt with; invite an obvious question.

some definitions of mental illness beg the question of what constitutes normal behaviour.
b. assume the truth of an argument or proposition to be proved, without arguing it.
3. beg to differ
see differ.
4. beg yours

(Austral./NZ) I beg your pardon.
5. go begging
a. (of an article) be available because unwanted by others.

there was a spare aircraft going begging.
b. (of an opportunity) fail to be taken.

the home side had themselves to blame as chances went begging.
III. phrasal verbs

beg off
withdraw from an undertaking

I’d planned to take Christy to dinner, but I was in a mood, and I begged off.
– origin Middle English: probably from Old English bedecian, of Germanic origin; related to bid2. / usage: The original meaning of the phrase beg the question belongs to the field of logic and is a translation of Latin petitio principii, literally meaning ‘laying claim to a principle’, i.e. assuming something that ought to be proved first, as in the following sentence: by devoting such a large part of the budget for the fight against drug addiction to education, we are begging the question of its significance in the battle against drugs. To some traditionalists this is still the only correct meaning. However, over the last 100 years or so another, more general use has arisen: ‘invite an obvious question’, as in some definitions of mental illness beg the question of what constitutes normal behaviour. This is by far the commonest use today and is the usual one in modern standard English.

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