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a small, usually round object of glass, wood, stone, or the like with a hole through it, often strung with others of its kind in necklaces, rosaries, etc.

a necklace of beads:
You don’t have your beads on this evening.
a rosary.
Obsolete. devotions; prayers.

any small globular or cylindrical body.
a drop of liquid:
beads of moisture.
a bubble rising through effervescent liquid.
Usually, beads. a mass of such bubbles on the surface of a liquid.
the front sight of a rifle or gun.
a reinforced area of a rubber tire terminating the sidewall and fitting within the rim of a wheel.
Electricity. a glass, ceramic, or plastic insulator that contains and supports the inner conductor in a coaxial cable.
Chemistry. a globule of borax or some other flux, supported on a platinum wire, in which a small amount of some substance is heated in a flame as a test for its constituents.
Metallurgy. the rounded mass of refined metal obtained by cupellation.
Architecture, Furniture. a small molding having a convex circular section and, usually, a continuous cylindrical surface; astragal.
Welding. a continuous deposit of fused metal, either straight (stringer bead) or zigzag (weave bead)
to form or cause to form beads or a bead on.
to ornament with beads.
Carpentry. to form a bead on (a piece).
to form beads; form in beads or drops:
perspiration beading on his forehead.
count / say / tell one’s beads, to say one’s prayers, using rosary beads:
There were a few old women counting their beads in the hushed silence of the chapel.
draw / get a bead on, to take careful aim at:
The marksman drew a bead on his target.
Contemporary Examples

The wall directly opposite the entrance was covered in colorful glass and bead mosaics.
A Little Too Off the Beaten Path in Burma Katya Cengel June 1, 2014

The bead embroidery on the back of her coat said “Revolution.”
Ilya Yashin & Ksenia Sobchak, the Russian Opposition’s Romeo & Juliet Anna Nemtsova December 16, 2012

But every day when I take out a bead, I stop for a moment, close my eyes, and say a prayer of thanks.
“The Gift of Cancer” Mark McKinnon February 21, 2010

In contrast, Hell on Wheels often has too much happening to get a bead on where the story is going.
‘Hell on Wheels’ Has Found Its Way Allen Barra January 5, 2012

Getting the gun out quickly and drawing a bead on a target, I decided, would challenge even Billy the Kid.
Ranger Rick and the Coyote Carol Flake Chapman September 9, 2011

Historical Examples

This cut is continued until the bottom of the bead is reached.
A Course In Wood Turning Archie S. Milton and Otto K. Wohlers

Then I saw a bead of sweat trickle down his forehead, and I knew that he was beaten.
Micah Clarke Arthur Conan Doyle

If the bead is completely saturated, it retains its opalescent appearance.
A System of Instruction in the Practical Use of the Blowpipe Anonymous

Where you had previously raised, you must narrow with the bead you have upon the silk.
The Ladies’ Work-Table Book Anonymous

I sat on one of the stools and my brother sat in the corner where he could draw a bead if either of the men showed fight.
The Wood Fire in No. 3 F. Hopkinson Smith

a small usually spherical piece of glass, wood, plastic, etc, with a hole through it by means of which it may be strung with others to form a necklace, etc
a small drop of moisture: a bead of sweat
a small bubble in or on a liquid
a small metallic knob acting as the sight of a firearm
draw a bead on, to aim a rifle or pistol at
(architect, carpentry) Also called astragal. a small convex moulding having a semicircular cross section
(chem) a small solid globule made by fusing a powdered sample with borax or a similar flux on a platinum wire. The colour of the globule serves as a test for the presence of certain metals (bead test)
(metallurgy) a deposit of welding metal on the surface of a metal workpiece, often used to examine the structure of the weld zone
(RC Church) one of the beads of a rosary
count one’s beads, say one’s beads, tell one’s beads, to pray with a rosary
(transitive) to decorate with beads
to form into beads or drops

mid-14c., bede “prayer bead,” from Old English gebed “prayer,” with intensive or collective prefix *ge- + Proto-Germanic *bidjan “to pray, entreat” (cf. Middle Dutch bede, Old High German beta, German bitte, Gothic bida “prayer, request”), from PIE *gwhedh- “to ask, pray.” Shift in meaning came via beads threaded on a string to count prayers, and in phrases like to bid one’s beads, to count one’s beads. German cognate Bitte is the usual word for conversational request “please.” Also related to bid (Old English biddan) and Gothic bidjan “to ask, pray.” Sense transferred to “drop of liquid” 1590s; to “small knob forming front sight of a gun” 1831 (Kentucky slang); hence draw a bead on “take aim at,” 1841, U.S. colloquial.

1570s, “to adorn with beads,” from bead (n.). Meaning “to string like beads” is from 1883. Related: Beaded; beading.


: a ballyhoo expert


Advertising or publicity, esp of a raucous and colorful sort; flack, hype: to peddle a product with sheer ballyhoo


: They ballyhooed him right into office

[1908+; ”a short sample of a sideshow, presented with a barker’s spiel”]
see: draw a bead on


Read Also:

  • Bead and reel

    a convex molding having the form of elongated beads alternating with disks placed edge-on, or with spherical beads, or with both.

  • Beadeye


  • Beadflush

    (of paneling) having panels flush with their stiles and rails and surrounded with a flush bead.

  • Beadhouse

    (formerly) an almshouse in which the residents were required to pray for the founder.

Disclaimer: Bead definition / meaning should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a legal, medical, or any other professional. All content on this website is for informational purposes only.