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Beat back

to strike violently or forcefully and repeatedly.
to dash against:
rain beating the trees.
to flutter, flap, or rotate in or against:
beating the air with its wings.
to sound, as on a drum:
beating a steady rhythm; to beat a tattoo.
to stir vigorously:
Beat the egg whites well.
to break, forge, or make by blows:
to beat their swords into plowshares.
to produce (an attitude, idea, habit, etc.) by repeated efforts:
I’ll beat some sense into him.
to make (a path) by repeated treading.
to strike (a person or animal) repeatedly and injuriously:
Some of the hoodlums beat their victims viciously before robbing them.
Music. to mark (time) by strokes, as with the hand or a metronome.
Hunting. to scour (the forest, grass, or brush), and sometimes make noise, in order to rouse game.
to overcome in a contest; defeat.
to win over in a race:
We beat the English challenger to Bermuda.
to be superior to:
Making reservations beats waiting in line.
to be incomprehensible to; baffle:
It beats me how he got the job.
to defeat or frustrate (a person), as a problem to be solved:
It beats me how to get her to understand.
to mitigate or offset the effects of:
beating the hot weather; trying to beat the sudden decrease in land values.
Slang. to swindle; cheat (often followed by out):
He beat him out of hundreds of dollars on that deal.
to escape or avoid (blame or punishment).
Textiles. to strike (the loose pick) into its proper place in the woven cloth by beating the loosely deposited filling yarn with the reed.
to strike repeated blows; pound.
to throb or pulsate:
His heart began to beat faster.
to dash; strike (usually followed by against or on):
rain beating against the windows.
to resound under blows, as a drum.
to achieve victory in a contest; win:
Which team do you think will beat?
to play, as on a drum.
to scour cover for game.
Physics. to make a beat or beats.
(of a cooking ingredient) to foam or stiffen as a result of beating or whipping:
This cream won’t beat.
Nautical. to tack to windward by sailing close-hauled.
a stroke or blow.
the sound made by one or more such blows:
the beat of drums.
a throb or pulsation:
a pulse of 60 beats per minute.
the ticking sound made by a clock or watch escapement.
one’s assigned or regular path or habitual round:
a policeman’s beat.

the audible, visual, or mental marking of the metrical divisions of music.
a stroke of the hand, baton, etc., marking the time division or an accent for music during performance.

Theater. a momentary time unit imagined by an actor in timing actions:
Wait four beats and then pick up the phone.
Prosody. the accent stress, or ictus, in a foot or rhythmical unit of poetry.
Physics. a pulsation caused by the coincidence of the amplitudes of two oscillations of unequal frequencies, having a frequency equal to the difference between the frequencies of the two oscillations.

the reporting of a piece of news in advance, especially before it is reported by a rival or rivals.
Compare exclusive (def 13), scoop (def 9).
Also called newsbeat, run. the particular news source or activity that a reporter is responsible for covering.

a subdivision of a county, as in Mississippi.
(often initial capital letter) Informal. beatnik.
Informal. exhausted; worn out.
(often initial capital letter) of or characteristic of members of the Beat Generation or beatniks.
beat about,

to search through; scour:
After beating about for several hours, he turned up the missing papers.
Nautical. to tack into the wind.

beat back, to force back; compel to withdraw:
to beat back an attacker.
beat down,

to bring into subjection; subdue.
Informal. to persuade (a seller) to lower the price of something:
His first price was too high, so we tried to beat him down.

beat off,

to ward off; repulse:
We had to beat off clouds of mosquitoes.
Slang: Vulgar. to masturbate.

beat out,

Informal. to defeat; win or be chosen over:
to beat out the competition.
Carpentry. to cut (a mortise).
to produce hurriedly, especially by writing or typing:
There are three days left to beat out the first draft of the novel.
Baseball. (of a hitter) to make (an infield ground ball or bunt) into a hit:
He beat out a weak grounder to third.

beat up,

Also, beat up on. to strike repeatedly so as to cause painful injury; thrash:
A gang of toughs beat him up on the way home from school. In the third round the champion really began to beat up on the challenger.
British Informal. to find or gather; scare up:
I’ll beat up some lunch for us while you make out the shopping list.

beat all, Informal. to surpass anything of a similar nature, especially in an astonishing or outrageous way:
The way he came in here and ordered us around beats all!
beat a retreat. retreat (def 12).
beat around / about the bush. bush1 (def 16).
beat it, Informal. to depart; go away:
He was pestering me, so I told him to beat it.
beat the air / wind, to make repeated futile attempts.
beat the rap. rap1 (def 17).
off one’s beat, outside of one’s routine, general knowledge, or range of experience:
He protested that nonobjective art was off his beat.
on the beat, in the correct rhythm or tempo:
By the end of the number they were all finally playing on the beat.
Contemporary Examples

But movements rise up really strong, get beat back, and then rise back up again.
Eco-Terrorism Documentary Incites Debate Marlow Stern June 25, 2011

Like Gates, Zuckerberg has infinite wealth, and he seems monomaniacal in his desire to see Facebook beat back any and all rivals.
Going Public, Facebook Will Make Mark Zuckerberg at Least $21 Billion Gary Rivlin February 2, 2012

As I reported in the piece, Uber beat back the initial crackdown by mobilizing its dedicated fans.
DC Taxi Commission Still Gunning for Uber Megan McArdle September 19, 2012

It was forbidden to be eaten, and seen as having powers that beat back “demons and sorcerers” as well as “misfortune.”
The History of the Chicken: How This Humble Bird Saved Humanity William O’Connor December 26, 2014

But she beat back a primary challenger handily—with some outside support.
This Southern Republican Backed Immigration Reform and Lived to Tell About It Patricia Murphy May 7, 2014

Historical Examples

We can see everything that is happening below, and stand high up, so that we can beat back the attackers.
Roger the Bold F. S. Brereton

For more than six months they beat back every force that was sent against them.
The Huguenots in France Samuel Smiles.

A lone skeptic had little chance to beat back the wave of excitement created by the young Robinson’s stories.
A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 1718 Wallace Notestein

We had a foul wind, and it took us three days to beat back into Malta harbour.
Salt Water W. H. G. Kingston

To beat back to Beach Cliff against its vagaries, our young navigator felt would be beyond his skill.
Killykinick Mary T. Waggaman

verb beats, beating, beat, beaten, beat
when intr, often foll by against, on, etc. to strike with or as if with a series of violent blows; dash or pound repeatedly (against)
(transitive) to punish by striking; flog
to move or cause to move up and down; flap: the bird beat its wings heavily
(intransitive) to throb rhythmically; pulsate: her heart beat fast
(transitive) to make (one’s way) by or as if by blows: she beat her way out of the crowd
(cookery) (transitive) sometimes foll by up. to stir or whisk (an ingredient or mixture) vigorously
(transitive) sometimes foll by out. to shape, make thin, or flatten (a piece of metal) by repeated blows
(transitive) (music) to indicate (time) by the motion of one’s hand, baton, etc, or by the action of a metronome
when tr, sometimes foll by out. to produce (a sound or signal) by or as if by striking a drum
to sound or cause to sound, by or as if by beating: beat the drums!
to overcome (an opponent) in a contest, battle, etc
(transitive; often foll by back, down, off etc) to drive, push, or thrust
(transitive) to arrive or finish before (someone or something); anticipate or forestall: they set off early to beat the rush hour
(transitive) to form (a path or track) by repeatedly walking or riding over it
to scour (woodlands, coverts, or undergrowth) so as to rouse game for shooting
(transitive) (slang) to puzzle or baffle: it beats me how he can do that
(intransitive) (physics) (of sounds or electrical signals) to combine and produce a pulsating sound or signal
(intransitive) (nautical) to steer a sailing vessel as close as possible to the direction from which the wind is blowing
(transitive) (slang, mainly US) to cheat or defraud: he beat his brother out of the inheritance
beat about the bush, to avoid the point at issue; prevaricate
beat a retreat, to withdraw or depart in haste
(slang) (often imperative) beat it, to go away
beat one’s breast, See breast (sense 10)
(slang) beat someone’s brains out, to kill by knocking severely about the head
(informal) beat someone to it, to reach a place or achieve an objective before someone else
(Brit) beat the bounds, (formerly) to define the boundaries of a parish by making a procession around them and hitting the ground with rods
(slang) can you beat it?, can you beat that?, an expression of utter amazement or surprise
a stroke or blow
the sound made by a stroke or blow
a regular sound or stroke; throb

an assigned or habitual round or route, as of a policeman or sentry
(as modifier): beat police officers

the basic rhythmic unit in a piece of music, usually grouped in twos, threes, or fours

pop or rock music characterized by a heavy rhythmic beat
(as modifier): a beat group

(physics) the low regular frequency produced by combining two sounds or electrical signals that have similar frequencies
(horology) the impulse given to the balance wheel by the action of the escapement
(prosody) the accent, stress, or ictus in a metrical foot
(nautical) a course that steers a sailing vessel as close as possible to the direction from which the wind is blowing

the act of scouring for game by beating
the organized scouring of a particular woodland so as to rouse the game in it
the woodland where game is so roused

short for beatnik
(fencing) a sharp tap with one’s blade on an opponent’s blade to deflect it
(modifier, often capital) of, characterized by, or relating to the Beat Generation: a beat poet, beat philosophy
(postpositive) (slang) totally exhausted

Old English beatan “inflict blows on, thrash” (class VII strong verb; past tense beot, past participle beaten), from Proto-Germanic *bautan (cf. Old Norse bauta, Old High German bozan “to beat”), from PIE root *bhau- “to strike” (see batter (v.)). Of the heart, c.1200, from notion of it striking against the breast. Meaning “to overcome in a contest” is from 1610s (the source of the sense of “legally avoid, escape” in beat the charges, etc., attested from c.1920 in underworld slang).

Past tense beat is from c.1500, probably not from Old English but a shortening of Middle English beted. Dead-beat (originally “tired-out”) preserves the old past participle. Meaning “strike cover to rouse or drive game” (c.1400) is source of beat around the bush (1570s), the metaphoric sense of which has shifted from “make preliminary motions” to “avoid, evade.” Command beat it “go away” first recorded 1906 (though “action of feet upon the ground” was a sense of Old English betan). To beat off “masturbate” is recorded by 1960s. For beat generation see beatnik.

c.1300, “a beating, whipping; the beating of a drum,” from beat (v.). As “throb of the heart” from 1755. Meaning “regular route travelled by someone” is attested from 1731, also “a track made by animals” (1736), from the sense of the “beat” of the feet on the ground (late Old English), or perhaps that in beat the bushes to flush game (c.1400), or beat the bounds (1560s). Extended to journalism by 1875. Musical sense is by 1842, perhaps from the motion of the conductor and the notion of “beating the time”:

It is usual, in beating the time of a piece of music, to mark or signalize the commencement of every measure by a downward movement or beat of the hand, or of any other article that may be used for the purpose …. [“Godfrey Weber’s General Music Teacher,” 1842]

Earlier in music it meant a sort of grace note:

BEAT, in music, a transient grace note, struck immediately before the note it is intended to ornament. The beat always lies half a note beneath its principal, and should be heard so closely upon it, that they may almost seem to be struck together. [“The British Encyclopedia,” London, 1809]


“defeated, overcome by effort,” c.1400, from past tense of beat (v.). Meaning “tired, exhausted,” is by 1905, American English.

beat (bēt)
v. beat, beat·en (bēt’n), beat·ing, beats

To strike repeatedly.

To pulsate; throb.

A stroke, impulse, or pulsation, especially one that produces a sound as of the heart or pulse.
A fluctuation or pulsation, usually repeated, in the amplitude of a signal. Beats are generally produced by the superposition of two waves of different frequencies; if the signals are audible, this results in fluctuations between louder and quieter sound.


Very tired; all in, pooped: You have been on the go right around the clock. You look beat (1830s+)
Alienated from the general society and expressing this by a wandering life, the avoidance of work, the advocacy of sexual freedom, the use of narcotics, a distinctive style of dress and grooming, and the adoption of certain aspects of Far Eastern religions: the beat generation/ beat poets (1950s+ Beat talk)
Boring; stupid; lame (1980s+ Teenagers)


: anything I knew that I hadn’t told the beat man at the news conference


A loafer; drifter; deadbeat, moocher (mid-1800s+)
News printed or broadcast first, before one’s competitors; scoop: The News scored an important beat (1900+ News media)
The area or subject matter that one is assigned to handle: cop on his beat/ a reporter on the courthouse beat (1700s+)
The asi meter of a piece of music, esp the insistent percussive rhythm of some jazz styles and rock and roll (1930s+)
A short pause; heartbeat: I waited a beat, then started for the garage/ It may take a couple of beats to absorb the shock of this new length (1950s+ Theater)


To baffle; nonplus: It beats me how she can do so much (1830s+)
To avoid a fine or conviction: He beat the burglary rap (1920s+ Underworld)
To rob or defraud: I sure got beat when I bought that old clunker (1850+)

Related Terms

downbeat, offbeat, upbeat
Force to retreat or withdraw, as in His findings beat back all their arguments to the contrary. This phrase was often used in a military context (and still is), as in Their armies were beaten back. [ Late 1500s ]

beat a dead horse
beat a path to someone’s door
beat a retreat
beat all
beat around the bush
beat back
beat down
beat hollow
beat into one’s head
beat it
beat off
beat one’s brains out
beat one’s head against the wall
beat out
beat someone at his or her own game
beat the air
beat the band
beat the bushes for
beat the clock
beat the drum for
beat the Dutch
beat the living daylights out of
beat the meat
beat the pants off
beat the rap
beat time
beat to it
beat up


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