Be-. [AS. be, and in accented form bI, akin to OS. be and bI, OHG. bi, pi, and pI, MHG. be and bI, G. be and bei, Goth. bi, and perh. Gr. 'amfi` about (cf. AS. beseón to look about). √203. Cf. By, Amb- .]
A prefix, originally the same word as by; joined with verbs, it serves:
To intensify the meaning; as, bespatter, bestir.
To render an intransitive verb transitive; as, befall (to fall upon); bespeak (to speak for).
To make the action of a verb particular or definite; as, beget (to get as offspring); beset (to set around).
It is joined with certain substantives, and a few adjectives, to form verbs; as, bedew, befriend, benight, besot; belate (to make late); belittle (to make little). It also occurs in certain nouns, adverbs, and prepositions, often with something of the force of the preposition by, or about; as, belief (believe), behalf, bequest (bequeath); because, before, beneath, beside, between.
In some words the original force of be is obscured or lost; as, in become, begin, behave, behoove, belong.
© Webster 1913