- To imply or illustrate the nature of
- To request or arrange for something ahead of time
- To formally or eloquently address
It's great to say what you mean, and it usually works well enough to communicate your meaning. But sometimes, though, it helps to do more, to make things really clear. Supplementing words with actions, or subtle social cues, accomplishes this most of the time, but there are a myriad of other signs to be sent. What they all have in common is that where words speak, these cues bespeak.
Bespeak means to insinuate or suggest something. It is used in situations where people's actions speak louder than their words—the old cliché. People will use their body language in order to show someone how they feel or to signify what they want. Bespeak continues to carry the more archaic meaning of addressing someone in an elevated or noble fashion, which was employed quite regularly in literature, especially in Shakespeare's works.
Bespeak also describes the action of claiming something beforehand. Whether it be hiring someone to cater a party, or ordering a magazine subscription, to bespeak is to ensure something will be done for you or given to you when you need it. Though containing the word speak, bespeak is a subtler way of saying something is "spoken for" when it has been reserved or hired.
Example: Their positive attitudes bespeak mutual happiness.
Example: She decided to bespeak a car in order to avoid taking the sluggish public transit downtown.
The roots of bespeak date back to its use in Old English in the form of "bisprecan," meaning "to speak up or speak out." From the Proto-German "bisprekana" which means "to discuss or blame," it evolved to the Dutch "bespreken," the Old High German "bisprehhan," and eventually to the current German "besprechen," all of which translate to some variations of "to speak about, to call out, complain, speak against, oppose," as well as "to order (as in goods and services)," and "arrange."
Bespoke: The past tense of bespeak is used when something has been indicated or reserved.
Example: The Ferrari he bought bespoke his increasing dread at the loss of his youth.
Example: She bespoke the chalet six months in advance of her wedding anniversary to beat the rush.
Bespoken: This past participle form of bespeak describes when something has, in the past, transmitted an implication to the observer, or when one has already made a prior arrangement.
Example: The thick cologne he wore had bespoken his amorous intentions long before he entered the room.
Example: He had not bespoken a hotel for his trip, so he was surprised to find he had nowhere to stay when he got off the plane in Miami.
Bespeaking: The active verb form of bespeak is used when something is being suggested or ordered.
Example: Her large house and expensive car are bespeaking her wealth.
Example: Even after returning from a long jog, her husband was still bespeaking their vacation package.
From Shakespeare's Hamlet
No, I went round to work,
And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
"Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy star. This must not be."
Here, bespeak is used as a form of address. This use of bespeak is mostly found in literature, especially in works of Shakespeare or those of his contemporaries.
From The Economist (December 13, 2014), A rose by many names
What exactly is luxury? The concept is both slippery and divisive, not least because so many purveyors wish to lay claim to it. It is adjacent to excess, enjoyment of it may bespeak shallowness, and those who possess it are often undeserving. Luxury makers need to dissipate such doubts.
This article describes the challenges faced by luxury good peddlers, and in it the columnist uses bespeak to describe how excessive enjoyment of luxury goods may imply, or give the impression of, shallowness.
- When your actions bespeak, they can be used to speak instead of words.
- A bespoke suit bespeaks style.
Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of bespeak. Did you use bespeak in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.