Definition of beadle in US English:



  • 1A ceremonial officer of a church, college, or similar institution.

    • ‘This ‘musical thriller’ can be a large-scale, sceptical swoop on the great wen, taking in everyone from beggar to beadle.’
    • ‘They were led by their officers, town clerk Graham Gittins, borough beadle Alfie Johnson and mace bearers Tony Sansom and Derek Smithers.’
    • ‘Yet Oliver did want more; he knew what would land in his plate, if the beadle consented to his request, but he asked anyway.’
    • ‘We also hear of a beadle in 1389 (this may have been when the office was created), a nightwatchman in 1406, and a clerk may be inferred from the recording of the electoral courts; however, these officers were appointed, not elected.’
    • ‘There are the parish vestry, the parish infirmary, the parish surgeon, the parish officers, the parish beadle.’
    • ‘The verbal announcement of auctions by beadles, often accompanied by bells and drums, was common in both town and country.’
    1. 1.1Scottish A church officer assisting the minister.
      • ‘He states that he remembers an old beadle of the church which was called "Haddo's Hole," and sometimes the "Little Kirk," in Edinburgh, whose son occasionally officiated as precentor.’
      • ‘Meanwhile in Scotland, the old-beadle died and his son succeeded him, eking out a modest living by selling tea and tobacco.’
      • ‘The Beadle (leader) commands "Gentlemen raise your tartans".’
    2. 1.2historical A minor parish officer dealing with petty offenders.
      • ‘Like their peers around Europe, many burghers continued to give alms to ‘undeserving’ beggars on the street, and some interfered when beadles arrested beggars.’
      • ‘At the same meeting new ballival elections were held (September being a common month for towns to hold elections) and the incumbents were re-elected; beadles and the collectors of tolls were also elected.’
      • ‘One night they resisted arrest by Maycomb County's beadle and locked him in the courthouse outhouse.’
      • ‘One night the boys locked the Maycomb County beadle in the courthouse outhouse.’
      • ‘Also, they ordain that there be two beadles in the borough, sworn to make all attachments and distraints, and carry out all orders from bailiffs, coroners and capital portmen which ought to be done in the borough.’
      • ‘A beadle was appointed to remove drunk and disorderly people from the streets, particularly on Sundays and he acted as an official presence to maintain order in the parish.’


Old English bydel ‘a person who makes a proclamation’, gradually superseded in Middle English by forms from Old French bedel, ultimately of Germanic origin; related to German Büttel, also to bid. Compare with bedel.