Was
Be Be (b[=e]), v. i. [imp. {Was} (w[o^]z); p. p. {Been} (b[i^]n); p. pr. & vb. n. {Being}.] [OE. been, beon, AS. be['o]n to be, be['o]m I am; akin to OHG. bim, pim, G. bin, I am, Gael. & Ir. bu was, W. bod to be, Lith. bu-ti, O. Slav. by-ti, to be, L. fu-i I have been, fu-turus about to be, fo-re to be about to be, and perh. to fieri to become, Gr. fy^nai to be born, to be, Skr. bh[=u] to be. This verb is defective, and the parts lacking are supplied by verbs from other roots, is, was, which have no radical connection with be. The various forms, am, are, is, was, were, etc., are considered grammatically as parts of the verb ``to be'', which, with its conjugational forms, is often called the substantive verb. [root]97. Cf. {Future}, {Physic}.] 1. To exist actually, or in the world of fact; to have existence. [1913 Webster]

To be contents his natural desire. --Pope. [1913 Webster]

To be, or not to be: that is the question. --Shak. [1913 Webster]

2. To exist in a certain manner or relation, -- whether as a reality or as a product of thought; to exist as the subject of a certain predicate, that is, as having a certain attribute, or as belonging to a certain sort, or as identical with what is specified, -- a word or words for the predicate being annexed; as, to be happy; to be here; to be large, or strong; to be an animal; to be a hero; to be a nonentity; three and two are five; annihilation is the cessation of existence; that is the man. [1913 Webster]

3. To take place; to happen; as, the meeting was on Thursday. [1913 Webster]

4. To signify; to represent or symbolize; to answer to. [1913 Webster]

The field is the world. --Matt. xiii. 38. [1913 Webster]

The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. --Rev. i. 20. [1913 Webster]

Note: The verb to be (including the forms is, was, etc.) is used in forming the passive voice of other verbs; as, John has been struck by James. It is also used with the past participle of many intransitive verbs to express a state of the subject. But have is now more commonly used as the auxiliary, though expressing a different sense; as, ``Ye have come too late -- but ye are come. '' ``The minstrel boy to the war is gone.'' The present and imperfect tenses form, with the infinitive, a particular future tense, which expresses necessity, duty, or purpose; as, government is to be supported; we are to pay our just debts; the deed is to be signed to-morrow. [1913 Webster]

Note: Have or had been, followed by to, implies movement. ``I have been to Paris.'' --Sydney Smith. ``Have you been to Franchard ?'' --R. L. Stevenson. [1913 Webster]

Note: Been, or ben, was anciently the plural of the indicative present. ``Ye ben light of the world.'' --Wyclif, Matt. v. 14. Afterwards be was used, as in our Bible: ``They that be with us are more than they that be with them.'' --2 Kings vi. 16. Ben was also the old infinitive: ``To ben of such power.'' --R. of Gloucester. Be is used as a form of the present subjunctive: ``But if it be a question of words and names.'' --Acts xviii. 15. But the indicative forms, is and are, with if, are more commonly used. [1913 Webster]

{Be it so}, a phrase of supposition, equivalent to suppose it to be so; or of permission, signifying let it be so. --Shak.

{If so be}, in case.

{To be from}, to have come from; as, from what place are you? I am from Chicago.

{To let be}, to omit, or leave untouched; to let alone. ``Let be, therefore, my vengeance to dissuade.'' --Spenser. [1913 Webster]

Syn: {To be}, {Exist}.

Usage: The verb to be, except in a few rare cases, like that of Shakespeare's ``To be, or not to be'', is used simply as a copula, to connect a subject with its predicate; as, man is mortal; the soul is immortal. The verb to exist is never properly used as a mere copula, but points to things that stand forth, or have a substantive being; as, when the soul is freed from all corporeal alliance, then it truly exists. It is not, therefore, properly synonymous with to be when used as a copula, though occasionally made so by some writers for the sake of variety; as in the phrase ``there exists [is] no reason for laying new taxes.'' We may, indeed, say, ``a friendship has long existed between them,'' instead of saying, ``there has long been a friendship between them;'' but in this case, exist is not a mere copula. It is used in its appropriate sense to mark the friendship as having been long in existence. [1913 Webster]


The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

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