Printable Version
Pronunciation: bee-hold Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1.To look at, see, observe something impressive. 2. To otherwise perceive something remarkable.

Notes: This word's present participle, beholding, serves as adjective and action noun. The personal noun, beholder, is most notable for its participation in the idiom, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." The Beholder is also a floating orb with one central eye and many other eyes on stalks in the game "Dungeons and Dragons". The past tense is beheld and the past participle is beholden.

In Play: Behold is a better word for look at or see when we are looking at something remarkable: "Ralph couldn't believe his eyes as he beheld Donna for the first time in an evening dress." The imperative is often used to attract someone's attention to an impressive idea: "We had worked for years to build a town center building then one night, lo and behold, the city fathers announced it would be built."

Word History: This word in Old English was behealden "to hold, guard, keep, belong to", but by Middle English its meaning had become "to gaze on, look at, behold", that is, "keep in your field of vision". It is made up of be- "make" (causative prefix) + hold. In other Germanic languages it retained its original meaning: German behalten, Dutch behouden "keep, preserve", Danish and Norwegian beholde "to keep" and Swedish behålla "to keep". A copy of the past participle retained the original meaning "kept" and its figurative sense of "obliged" came to dominate it. Hold comes from PIE kel-/kol- "to cover, keep, save", also found in hell, hole, and holster. The E-variant came to be cella "closet, granary" and cilium "eyelid" in Latin. Cella provided cellarium "pantry", which English remade into cellar. Supercilium meant "eyebrow" in Latin (super "over, above" + cilium), but superciliosus came to mean "arrogant", probably from the raised eyebrows associated with the wealthy.

Dr. Goodword,

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