Definition of begin in US English:



  • 1with object Start; perform or undergo the first part of (an action or activity)

    ‘it was beginning to snow’
    no object ‘she began by rewriting the syllabus’
    ‘theorists have just begun to address these complex questions’
    ‘she began a double life’
    • ‘It was in that town that his son Étienne was born, was brought up, and began his education.’
    • ‘Back in Oxford, he sat on the City Council, and began his lifelong activity of prison visiting.’
    • ‘The county says it's hired private contractors to begin the clean-up work after the first of the year.’
    • ‘As he watched the plane started its engines and began to travel down the concrete.’
    • ‘He was inspired to begin work on a book about it from an African point of view.’
    • ‘He was so impressed with it that he began the process which has led to the opening of the first scheme in inner London.’
    • ‘Please could you send me the necessary paperwork required to begin this procedure.’
    • ‘He begins a business studies degree course at University of Limerick next week after being offered a place earlier this summer.’
    • ‘Before you begin any activity, drink at least one glass of water 30 minutes prior.’
    • ‘Ben had hoped that Carl would be able to control the hidden powers in his suit, but Carl had only begun to realize his potential before his death.’
    • ‘Contractors are expected to begin work within two months with a view to completion within 18 months.’
    • ‘Finally, he began to convert starts into substance and his running was supreme throughout.’
    • ‘Then she began her task to educate others on the battle against discrimination and AIDS.’
    • ‘Leigh famously begins work on his projects with no script, no characters and no names, expecting the actors to pitch in on all of these in a collaborative workshop style.’
    • ‘He will have to prove himself again in his next role by continuing the innovative work begun by Danon.’
    • ‘To solve this problem we arranged to bring in teams of volunteers at night who began the task in earnest - time was running out.’
    • ‘They may also independently inherit property and begin the process leading to a divorce.’
    • ‘The man turns away and changes transparencies on the overhead projector and begins his lesson.’
    • ‘Don't forget to warm up and stretch properly before beginning any athletic activity.’
    • ‘Diversification of the group's activities had also begun by then.’
    start, set about, go about, embark on, launch into, get down to, take up, turn one's hand to, undertake, tackle
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1no object Come into being or have its starting point at a certain time or place.
      ‘the ground campaign had begun’
      ‘the story begins with the death of her senile father’
      ‘the tour begins at the active Poas Volcano’
      • ‘It began as a funerary tradition but today is associated with a celebration.’
      • ‘To widespread relief, the second half began as the first had ended and not as it began.’
      • ‘What began as a hobby a decade ago has evolved into giving performances all over the State.’
      • ‘The office has existed in England for at least 800 years, and began as a sort of secretaryship to the King.’
      • ‘What began as an attempt to rebut the claim turned into a major research project lasting months.’
      • ‘What began as an industrial campaign turned into a campaign for land rights.’
      • ‘The fire has burned about 480 square miles since it began as two blazes last week.’
      • ‘Since it began as a cartoon in the 1920s, the story of Annie has touched hearts.’
      • ‘It began as a wine bar, and the origins show through in the excellence of the wine list and cheese board.’
      • ‘What began as a hobby for the actress is now a viable business proposition.’
      • ‘What began as an academic issue may now be, literally, a matter of life and death.’
      • ‘A challenge was there to be met and it began as soon as you were near the ground.’
      • ‘What began as a small, local competition evolved into an event of national importance.’
      • ‘Whether by accident or design, McKinven could be about to find that life begins at 40-or at least begins again.’
      • ‘What began as a steady walk by day's end was on the verge of turning into a run.’
      • ‘It began as a good idea by a small but determined group of York residents.’
      • ‘Regardless of the result this Sunday, Cyril Lyons has now stamped his own personality on this team and this county, and a new era has very definitely begun.’
      • ‘It began as a family day out at the seaside - but a mother and her children were swept to their deaths.’
      • ‘Their marker is brought back to the starting point and they begin once again.’
      appear, arise, become apparent, make an appearance, spring up, crop up, turn up, surface, emerge, come into existence, come into being, originate, start, develop, unfold
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2no object (of a person) hold a specific position or role before holding any other.
      ‘he began as a drummer’
      • ‘He began as a court photographer, but pretty soon went to work for magazines.’
      • ‘He began as a rugby league player in Bradford, then switched to union at Bradford and with Keswick.’
      • ‘I began as the Agent for Wigan where I learned a great deal which stood me in good stead later at Knutsford.’
      • ‘Musically, he began as a boy soprano and his music teacher took him to village halls to perform.’
      • ‘He began as a hairy hippie banjo player who took great delight at poking fun at his fellow Scots.’
      • ‘That's a lot of honour for someone who began as an outspoken lawyer in Dublin.’
      • ‘Russ began as a DJ playing soul in clubs like the Sandpiper, in Fallowfield, and touring the country.’
      • ‘He began as senior writer and was promoted a year later to associate editor and associate publisher.’
      • ‘After training he began as a curate at Chipping Barnet and later became team vicar at Dunstable.’
      • ‘Susan Rae, a young Scot with an accent to match, began as an announcer on Radio 4 in the 1980s.’
      • ‘His career began as a PC at Rochdale, working specifically at Littleborough and Milnrow.’
      • ‘William Petty began as a physician and ended as a pioneer social statistician.’
      • ‘Like Warhol, he began as a commercial artist and his art has its roots in advertising.’
      • ‘Well, fate had decided for him that he provide cheers to people for he had begun as a villain in his early days.’
    3. 1.3no object (of a thing) originate.
      ‘Watts Lake began as a marine inlet’
      • ‘What began as a treat for his birthday ended in a traumatic experience for a young Sligo boy last week.’
      • ‘The fires began as small brown spots that appeared on the wallpaper of the house.’
      • ‘Jazz began as the music of the streets, of the poor and disempowered, of the outsider.’
      • ‘She kept her word, and what began as an academic exercise became a spiritual journey.’
      • ‘What began as a catalogue for the show escalated into an astonishing 437 page book.’
      • ‘It began as a naval operation, escalated into a ground offensive and even involved an air component.’
      • ‘We began as a technology company sinking vast resources into research.’
      • ‘Even more remarkable is the fact that the site began as a barren lot stripped of plants.’
      • ‘The company began as a mail-order catalogue offering an alternative to Barbie.’
      • ‘It began as a bored scribble and ended up the most influential work of the last century.’
      • ‘It began as a college joke but became a gag that everyone enjoyed.’
      • ‘What began as a zoo with a fairground attached has evolved into an exciting yet eccentric family-run park.’
      • ‘It began as a craft business in the garden shed and was built up slowly over the years.’
      • ‘They began as primitive democracies but became less and less democratic.’
      • ‘In other words, the short story began as a tale told orally, often around the campfire.’
      • ‘Established in 1672 by Sir Richard Hoare, the bank began as a goldsmith under the sign of the golden bottle.’
    4. 1.4begin withno object Have as a first element.
      ‘words beginning with a vowel’
      • ‘In particular, pay close attention to the line that begins with A.’
      • ‘They've lost the record for everyone whose surname begins with an M.’
      • ‘Now he really likes his sequels, and conveniently his name begins with D.’
      • ‘Witnesses to the accident said the Peugeot 206 has a registration number beginning with J654.’
      • ‘As far as Viccy goes: the word begins with T and ends with T.’
      • ‘This four-step process begins with removal of lacquer and paint using a chemical stripper.’
      • ‘Each chapter begins with a list of symptoms that need investigation by a doctor.’
      • ‘Children's names beginning with V.’
      • ‘There's an ancient rule of life, which is that in Korea life begins with the spring.’
    5. 1.5begin on/uponno object Set to work at.
      ‘Picasso began on a great canvas’
      • ‘Resurfacing work to the top deck of the multi-storey car park begins on Monday, February 9th.’
      • ‘But for now he is happy to explore the surprises that the house provides as work cautiously begins on stripping away the paint.’
      • ‘Some touch ups are still needed inside, and when the weather changes, the work begins on the outside.’
      • ‘Work begins on the project in October this year and is expected to be completed by July next year.’
      • ‘Most of the research begins on the internet, followed by calls to make appointments with foreign estate agents.’
      • ‘Local councillors are particularly keen to get a handle on the youth problems before work begins on the railings around the war memorial.’
      • ‘Indeed the availability of the new car park could be badly needed when work begins on the Wine Street car park.’
      • ‘From June work begins on repairing parapets on the Millbrook flyover.’
      • ‘Work begins on setting the festive scene a month before Christmas, ensuring her display is in place in good time.’
      • ‘The organisation has been investigating the site before work begins on a council project to restore it.’
      • ‘Work also begins on extending the beers, wines and spirits aisles.’
      • ‘Rail travellers will face further delays from today when engineering work begins on a new connecting track.’
      • ‘Work begins on putting in place new traffic signals at the junction of Bank Street and Folds Road on January 20.’
      • ‘Exodus begins on the steadily diminishing island of Wing, bombarded by seas given velocity by global warming.’
    6. 1.6with direct speech Start speaking by saying.
      ‘“I've got to go to the hotel,” she began’
      open, lead off, get under way, get going, get off the ground, start, start off, go ahead
      View synonyms
    7. 1.7begin atno object (of an article) cost at least (a specified amount)
      ‘rooms begin at $139’
      • ‘In terms of cost, Clements assesses each job separately, with prices beginning at €200.’
      • ‘These accumulate large amounts of protein and oil bodies throughout development, beginning at about 10 dpa.’
      • ‘The cost begins at $10.’
      • ‘Prices begin at £664 per person, with flights departing on March 1.’
  • 2informal no object, with negative and infinitive Not have any chance or likelihood of doing a specified thing.

    ‘circuitry that Karen could not begin to comprehend’
    • ‘All of it reeked of animosity, belligerence, and things the pixies could not even begin to comprehend.’
    • ‘In fact, not even Jess couldn't even begin to comprehend what was in store for him.’
    • ‘He concluded by saying that we couldn't even begin to comprehend what one day in his shoes would be like.’
    • ‘Geez, I couldn't even begin to comprehend as to how I managed to associate myself with these fools.’
    • ‘Murray cannot begin to comprehend that some people might find the Landlord funny because they agree with what he says.’
    • ‘I looked at her blankly, for I could not even begin to plead with her to comprehend.’
    • ‘They would be what America had been in days they could not ever begin to comprehend.’
    • ‘Before Tzaer could begin to comprehend what the stuff was, his skin started to crack.’
    • ‘As a child I couldn't even begin to comprehend as to why this was and I looked elsewhere for comfort.’
    • ‘I cannot begin to understand the person that thought up that.’
    • ‘Clearly this too is an honour that most of you have little chance of even beginning to aspire to.’
    • ‘Konah could not even begin to comprehend the terrible dread and fear that enveloped the girl's screams.’
    • ‘Because these numbers are hard for people around the world to even begin to comprehend.’
    • ‘Just my two cents on a religion I don't even begin to comprehend.’
    • ‘Ada could not even begin to comprehend what Adam had been thinking.’
    • ‘How he got there in the first place and why he felt the need to massacre the chickens, she couldn't even begin to comprehend.’
    • ‘Tubes for breathing, food, water and things they couldn't even begin to comprehend.’
    • ‘Indeed, even to-day, one cannot begin to comprehend the appalling fate suffered by these two young girls.’


  • to begin with

    • 1At first.

      • ‘To begin with I always rested.’
      • ‘He wasn't interested in that to begin with, he just thought the job of a winger was to get crosses into the box and create goals for others.’
      • ‘There were a few teething problems to begin with (I thought keyboards were standard, for instance), but I’m really beginning to love it.’
      • ‘That wasn't her intention to begin with.’
      • ‘The first night was very strange because I felt stupid to begin with.’
      • ‘To begin with, she wanted to break through the stereotype of the cheesy, overdressed magician.’
      • ‘I had no roadmaps, and I had a bad sense of direction to begin with.’
      • ‘Classes for secondary school pupils were held in the convent to begin with.’
      at first, at the start, at the outset, at the beginning, in the beginning, to begin with, to start with, originally, in the early stages, in the first instance
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1In the first place.
        ‘such a fate is unlikely to befall him: to begin with, his is a genuine talent’
        • ‘And although it was never really mine to begin with, a very small part of me still can't help but morn its loss.’
        • ‘I really want to ask the press why the law and government policy is necessary to begin with if we do not observe or apply it.’
        • ‘They're not larger than life characters to begin with, and so when you meet them, it's a bit like seeing someone at a party.’
        • ‘He was in the wrong for trying to push me out of the way to begin with.’
        • ‘To be successful in the field, you need the most basic skills to begin with.’
        • ‘We help people to change the habits that have created the problems for them to begin with.’
        • ‘This is the type of type diplomacy which put these countries on the outside to begin with.’
        • ‘The movie I believe had a lot of potential, a good story line to begin with and some good visual effects.’
        • ‘Well, any discussion of this would have to begin with how stupid and dumb they are.’


Old English beginnan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch and German beginnen.