beak

Definitions

General English

Agriculture

  • noun hard parts forming the mouth of a bird.

Publishing

  • noun a curved decorative stroke on a letter

Slang

  • noun the nose. Beak has been used in this obvious sense since at least the beginning of the 19th century, although other terms, such as hooter, bugle, conk, etc. are more popular. In Irish speech the word is also used for the mouth or face.
  • noun a person in authority, especially a judge or schoolmaster. This old usage is now obsolete in American English, but is retained in Britain in public-school slang and in the expression ‘up before the beak’ (appearing before a magistrate or someone else sitting in judgment). Attempts have been made to derive this meaning of beak from a Celtic term for judgment, but the more obvious derivation is from the intrusive beak (the nose and/or mouth) of authority. Tatler magazine reported in August 1989 that beak was still the standard Etonian slang for a schoolmaster.
  • noun cocaine
  • noun fellatio

Origin & History of “beak”

English acquired beak via Old French bec from Latin beccus, which was probably borrowed from some Gaulish word (the original Latin word for ‘beak’ was rostrum). The Roman historian Suetonius (c. 69–140 ad) tells of one Antonius Primus, a native of Toulouse, who was nicknamed as a boy Beccus, ‘that is, hen’s beak’. The Old English term for ‘beak’ was bile ‘bill’.
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