PIE word

From Middle English bisemen (to beseem) [and other forms],[1] from be-, bi- (prefix forming transitive verbs with a completive, figurative, or intensifying sense)[2] + semen (to seem; to be or see as appropriate; to be visible or apparent; to regard).[3] Semen is derived from Old Norse sœma (to conform to; to befit, beseem), from Proto-Germanic *sōmijaną (to fit; to unite), from Proto-Indo-European *sem- (one; whole). The English word is analysable as be- (prefix with an intensifying sense) +‎ seem.[4]



beseem (third-person singular simple present beseems, present participle beseeming, simple past and past participle beseemed) (transitive, intransitive, archaic)

  1. Generally with a qualifying word such as ill or well: to appear, look, or seem (a certain way for someone or something).
    This inn beseems well for a weary wayfarer.
    • 1591 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The First Part of Henry the Sixt”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act IV, scene i], page 110, column 1:
      To ſay the truth, this fact was infamous, / And ill beſeeming any common man; / Much more a Knight, a Captaine, and a Leader.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, “Book IV, Canto VI”, in The Faerie Queene. [], part II (books IV–VI), London: [] [Richard Field] for William Ponsonby, OCLC 932900760, stanza 19, page 85:
      VVith that, her angels Face, vnſeene afore, / Like to the ruddie morne appeard in ſight, / Deawed with ſiluer drops, through ſweating ſore, / But ſomewhat redder, then beſeem'd aright, / Through toyleſome heate and labour of her weary fight.
    • 1624 (first performance), John Fletcher, Rule a Wife and Have a Wife. A Comoedy. [], Oxford, Oxfordshire: [] Leonard Lichfield [], published 1640, OCLC 960101958, Act I, scene [iii], page 8:
      Alt[ea]. Shee would faine marry. / 1. Tis a proper calling, / And well beſeemes her yeares, who would ſhe yoke with?
    • 1643 January 14, “To the Kings Most Excellent Majesty. The Humble Petition of the Commissioners of the Generall Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland, from Their Meeting at Edinburgh, January 4, 1643 [Julian calendar].”, in The Humble Petition of the Commissioners of the Generall Assembly to the Kings Majesty. [], Edinburgh: [] Evan Tyler, [], OCLC 30650050, page 6:
      The Nationall Aſſembly of this Kirk, from which we have our Commiſſion, did promiſe in their thankſgiving for the many favours expreſſed in Your Majeſties Letter, their beſt endeavours to keep the people under their charge, in unity and peace, and in loyalty and obedience to Your Majeſtie and Your Laws, which we confeſſe is a duty well beſeeming the preachers of the Goſpel: []
    • 1820, John Keats, “Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil. A Story from Boccaccio.”, in Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems, London: [] [Thomas Davison] for Taylor and Hessey, [], OCLC 927360557, stanza XIX, page 58:
      Now they can no more hear thy ghittern's tune, / For venturing syllables that ill beseem / The quiet glooms of such a piteous theme.
    • 1843, [Edward Bulwer-Lytton], “The Broken Gittern”, in The Last of the Barons, volume I, London: Saunders and Otley, [], OCLC 2483878, book I (The Adventures of Master Marmaduke Nevile), page 34:
      My good damsel, you are now, I think, out of danger; it would ill beseem you, so young and comely, to go further with one not old enough to be your protector, so, in God's name, depart quickly, []
    • 1915 July, “Close-ups”, in Photoplay Magazine: The National Movie Publication, volume VIII, number 2, Chicago, Ill.: Photoplay Publishing, OCLC 900022603, page 120:
      The girl is born pretty—and a rebel. [] The mouth, artfully carmined to allure, beseems the red door of a white sepulchre.
  2. Without any qualifying word: to be appropriate or creditable (for someone or something).
    Synonyms: become, befit, suit
    Antonyms: (archaic) misbeseem, (obsolete) unbeseem
    It beseems you not to grumble thus.


Derived termsEdit



  1. ^ bisẹ̄men, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ bi-, pref.(2)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  3. ^ sẹ̄men, v.(2)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ beseem, v.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2020; “beseem, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.