Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Behest

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is behest. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

behest is an authoritative order or an urgent prompting.

// The committee met again at the behest of the senator.

BEHEST in Context

“Earmarks were banned on Capitol Hill 11 years ago at the behest of House Republicans and then-President Obama in response to scandals surrounding how lawmakers were using them.” — Jennifer Haberkorn, The Los Angeles Times, 16 Mar. 2022

Did You Know?

Behest is an ancient word: it is almost a thousand years old. It was formed from the prefix be- and the verb hātan (“to command” or “to promise”), and its Old English ancestor was used exclusively in the sense of “promise,” a now-obsolete meaning that continued on in Middle English especially in the phrase “the land of behest.” The “command” meaning of behest is also ancient but it’s still in good use, typically referring to an authoritative order. Behest is now also used with a less weighty meaning; it can refer to an urgent prompting, as in “a repeat performance at the behest of the troupe’s fans.”

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