Definition of begin in English:



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

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

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


  • to begin with

    • 1At first.

      • ‘The first night was very strange because I felt stupid to begin with.’
      • ‘There were a few teething problems to begin with (I thought keyboards were standard, for instance), but I’m really beginning to love it.’
      • ‘To begin with I always rested.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘That wasn't her intention to begin with.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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’
        • ‘He was in the wrong for trying to push me out of the way to begin with.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘To be successful in the field, you need the most basic skills to begin with.’
        • ‘Well, any discussion of this would have to begin with how stupid and dumb they are.’
        • ‘The movie I believe had a lot of potential, a good story line to begin with and some good visual effects.’
        • ‘And although it was never really mine to begin with, a very small part of me still can't help but morn its loss.’
        • ‘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.’


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