Definition of begin in English:

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Pronunciation: /bɪˈɡɪn/

verb (begins, beginning; past began /bɪˈɡan/; past participle begun /bɪˈɡʌn/)

1 [with object] Perform or undergo the first part of (an action or activity): Peter had just begun a life sentence for murder [with infinitive or present participle]: it was beginning to snow [no object]: she began by rewriting the syllabus
More example sentences
  • Back in Oxford, he sat on the City Council, and began his lifelong activity of prison visiting.
  • He was inspired to begin work on a book about it from an African point of view.
  • 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;
initiate, set in motion, institute, inaugurate, get ahead with
informal get cracking on, get going on
formal commence
1.1 [no object] Come into being or have its starting point at a certain time or place: a new era had begun the cycleway begins at Livingston village
More example sentences
  • Whether by accident or design, McKinven could be about to find that life begins at 40-or at least begins again.
  • What began as an industrial campaign turned into a campaign for land rights.
  • 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;
set in, become established;
happen, occur
formal commence
literary come to pass
1.2 [no object] (Of a person) hold a specified role before holding any other: he began as a drummer
More example sentences
  • Russ began as a DJ playing soul in clubs like the Sandpiper, in Fallowfield, and touring the country.
  • 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.
1.3 [no object] (begin with) Have as a first element: words beginning with a vowel
More example sentences
  • There's an ancient rule of life, which is that in Korea life begins with the spring.
  • 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.
1.4 [no object] (begin on/upon) Set to work at: Picasso began on a great canvas
More example sentences
  • But for now he is happy to explore the surprises that the house provides as work cautiously begins on stripping away the paint.
  • Local councillors are particularly keen to get a handle on the youth problems before work begins on the railings around the war memorial.
  • Work begins on setting the festive scene a month before Christmas, ensuring her display is in place in good time.
1.5 [with direct speech] Start speaking by saying: ‘Mr Smith,’ he began
open, lead off, get under way, get going, get off the ground, start, start off, go ahead
informal start the ball rolling, kick off, get the show on the road, get to it, fire away, take the plunge
formal commence
1.6 [no object] (begin at) (Of an article) cost at least (a specified amount): rooms begin at £139
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • Prices begin at £664 per person, with flights departing on March 1.
2 [no object, with infinitive, with negative] informal Not have any chance or likelihood of doing a specified thing: I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate that commercial
More example sentences
  • Clearly this too is an honour that most of you have little chance of even beginning to aspire to.
  • Indeed, even to-day, one cannot begin to comprehend the appalling fate suffered by these two young girls.
  • He concluded by saying that we couldn't even begin to comprehend what one day in his shoes would be like.


to begin with

At first.
Example sentences
  • To begin with I always rested.
  • I had no roadmaps, and I had a bad sense of direction 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.
1.1Used to introduce the first of several points: such a fate is unlikely to befall him: to begin with, his is a genuine talent
More example sentences
  • Well, any discussion of this would have to begin with how stupid and dumb they are.
  • 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.
  • He was in the wrong for trying to push me out of the way to begin with.


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

Words that rhyme with begin

agin, akin, Berlin, bin, Boleyn, Bryn, chin, chin-chin, Corinne, din, fin, Finn, Flynn, gaijin, Glyn, grin, Gwyn, herein, Ho Chi Minh, in, inn, Jin, jinn, kin, Kweilin, linn, Lynn, mandolin, mandoline, Min, no-win, pin, Pinyin, quin, shin, sin, skin, spin, therein, thin, Tientsin, tin, Tonkin, Turin, twin, underpin, Vietminh, violin, wherein, whin, whipper-in, win, within, Wynne, yin

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: begin

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