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Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 2 months ago

An OED Harvest:


[Early ME. bileafe, leaue, -leue, f. bi-, BE + leafe:{em}OE. (Northumb.) léafa, shortened from {asg}e-léafa ‘belief,’ a common WGer. abstract n. (= OS. gilô{bbar}o, MDu. gelôve, Du. geloof, OHG. giloubo, MHG. geloube, Ger. glaube):{em}OTeut. type *galau{bbar}on- (but not found in Gothic, which had the cogn. galaubeins fem.); f. galaub- ‘dear, esteemed, valued, valuable’; see BELIEVE. The orig. {asg}eléafa, ileafe, ILEVE, and its short form léafa, leafe, LEVE, survived till the 13th c., when the present compound, which had appeared already in the 12th c., superseded both. The be-, which is not a natural prefix of nouns, was prefixed on the analogy of the vb. (where it is naturally an intensive), so that believe, belief, go together, as the earlier {asg}elíefan, {asg}eléafa, and liéfan, léafa, did. The vowel of the n. (éa) and vb. (WSax. íe, Anglian é) were originally different; but the distinction was lost in ME. On the other hand the final consonants were differentiated in 16th c. the n. changing from beleeve to beleefe, apparently by form-analogy with pairs like grieve grief, prove proof. The normal mod.Eng. would have been beleave or beleeve.]


1. The mental action, condition, or habit, of trusting to or confiding in a person or thing; trust, dependence, reliance, confidence, faith. Const. in (to, of obs.) a person.

(Belief was the earlier word for what is now commonly called faith. The latter originally meant in Eng. (as in OFrench) ‘loyalty to a person to whom one is bound by promise or duty, or to one's promise or duty itself,’ as in ‘to keep faith, to break faith,’ and the derivatives faithful, faithless, in which there is no reference to ‘belief’; i.e. ‘faith’ was = fidelity, fealty. But the word faith being, through OF. fei, feith, the etymological representative of the L. fides, it began in the 14th c. to be used to translate the latter, and in course of time almost superseded ‘belief,’ esp. in theological language, leaving ‘belief’ in great measure to the merely intellectual process or state in sense 2. Thus ‘belief in God’ no longer means as much as ‘faith in God’ (cf. quot. 1814 in 2). See BELIEVE 1, and 1b.)

c1175 Lamb. Hom. 101 Cristene men ne sculen heore bileafe bisettan on {th}ere weorldliche eahte. c1375 WYCLIF Serm. Sel. Wks. I. 59 Affie {th}e, dou{ygh}ter, {th}i bileve ha{th} made {th}ee saif. c1386 CHAUCER 2nd Nonnes. T. 63 And though that I, unworthy sone of Eve, Be synful, yet accepte my bileve. c1400 Melayne 438 What myghte es in a rotyn tree {Th}at {ygh}oure byleue es in. c1450 Merlin 50 It is grete merveile that ye haue so grete bileve to this man. 1508 FISHER Wks. 271 A stedfast byleue of God. 1535 COVERDALE Tob. ii, We..loke for the life, which God shal geue vnto them, that neuer turne their beleue from him. 1626 BACON Sylva §327 We knew a Dutch-man, that had wrought himself into the beleif of a great Person by undertaking that he could make Gold. 1837 CARLYLE Fr. Rev. I. IV. iv. 183 Belief in high-plumed hats of a feudal cut; in heraldic scutcheons; in the divine right of Kings. 1859 TENNYSON Elaine 961 Beyond mine old belief in womanhood.


b. absol. Trust in God; the Christian virtue of faith. arch. or Obs.

c1375 WYCLIF Serm. Sel. Wks. I. 21 Neither wi{th} figis of bileve, ne wi{th} grapis of devocioun. c1400 Apol. Loll. Introd. 6 It is sooth that bileue is grounde of alle vertues. c1400 Destr. Troy x. 4287 ffor lacke of beleue {th}ai light into errour, and fellen vnto fals goddes. 1578 QUEEN ELIZABETH in Farr S.P. (1845) I. 1 Who shall therefor from Syon geue That helthe whych hangeth on our b'leue? 1593 HOOKER Eccl. Pol. III. i. §5 The Church hath from the apostles..received belief. 1840 CARLYLE Heroes vi. 320 That war of the Puritans..the war of Belief against Unbelief.


{dag}c. out of belief: unbelieving, outside the pale of the faith. Obs.

1493 Festivall (W. de W. 1515) 60 The Jewe that was out of beleve.


2. Mental acceptance of a proposition, statement, or fact, as true, on the ground of authority or evidence; assent of the mind to a statement, or to the truth of a fact beyond observation, on the testimony of another, or to a fact or truth on the evidence of consciousness; the mental condition involved in this assent. Constr. of a statement, or (obs.) a speaker; that...; belief in (a thing); persuasion of its existence.

1533 FRITH Bk. agst. Rastell (1829) 236 That I would bring the people in belief that repentance of a man helpeth not for the remission of his sin. 1580 SIDNEY Arcadia III. (1590) 385 My only defence shal be beleefe of nothing. 1680 MORDEN Geog. Rect. (1685) 254 There is no belief of men that were always accounted Lyers. 1790 BOSWELL Johnson 100 We talked of belief in ghosts. 1814 WORDSW. Excursion IV. Wks. VII. 161 One in whom persuasion and belief Had ripened into faith. 1843 MILL Logic I. i. §2 The simplest act of belief supposes, and has something to do with, two objects. 1849 ABP. THOMSON Laws Th. §118 (1860) 240 The amount of belief we have in our judgment has been called its Modality, as being the mode in which we hold it for truth. 1872 CALDERWOOD Handbk. Mor. Philos. (1874) 248 Belief is the assent of the mind to a truth, while the reality so acknowledged is not matter of observation. Mod. His statements are unworthy of belief.


3. The thing believed; the proposition or set of propositions held true; in early usage, esp. the doctrines believed by the professors of a religious system, a religion. In modern use often simply = opinion, persuasion.

a1225 St. Marher. 4 Ant heide his hethene godes..ant lei to his luthere bileaue. a1340 HAMPOLE Pr. Consc. 4335 And turne {th}am til a fals belyefe. c1380 Sir Ferumb. 829 Til he wer cristned..& y-bro{ygh}t to {th}e ri{ygh}t beleue. 1393 GOWER Conf. II. 152 The beleves, that tho were. c1400 MANDEVILLE x. 121 Thei holden the Beleeve amonges us. 1530 RASTELL Bk. Purgat. II. iv, Of thys beleve, that the soule shall never dye. 1535 COVERDALE Esther viii. 17 Many of the people in the londe became of the Iewes beleue. 1714 LADY M. W. MONTAGUE Lett. lxxxvi. II. 141 It is my belief you will not be at all the richer. 1836 HOR. SMITH Tin Trump. (1876) 56 Throughout the world belief depends chiefly upon localities, and the accidents of birth. 1877 E. CONDER Bas. Faith i. 8 The belief that there is no God is as definite a creed as the belief in one God or in many gods.


b. The term is applied by some philosophers to the primary or ultimate principles of knowledge received on the evidence of consciousness; intuition, natural judgement.

1838 SIR W. HAMILTON in Reid's Wks. 743/1 note, The primary truths of fact, and the primary truths of intelligence (the contingent and necessary truths of Reid) form two very distinct classes of the original beliefs or intuitions of consciousness. 1877 CONDER Basis of Faith iv. 157 Primary judgments (as that every change must have a cause) are often called beliefs, though ‘intuitions’ would be a better term.


4. A formal statement of doctrines believed, a creed. the Belief: the ‘Apostles' Creed.’ arch.

c1175 Lamb. Hom. 73 Buten heo cunnen heore bileue. {th}et is . pater noster . and credo. 1377 LANGL. P. Pl. B. v. 7, I..sat softly adown and seide my bileue. c1550 How Plowm. lerned Pater-Noster 54 in Hazl. E.P.P. 211, I mervayll ryght gretly, That thy byleve was never taught the. 1637 HEYWOOD Dialogues i. 101 Some sung, and some did say Haile Virgin: others, their Beleefe. 1712 PRIDEAUX Direct. Ch.-Wardens (ed. 4) 11 Kneeling at the Prayers, Standing at the Belief. 1840 MARRYAT Olla Podr. (Rtldg.) 331, I said..the Belief.


{dag}5. Confident anticipation, expectation. Obs.

1513 DOUGLAS Æneis X. ix. 44 That gude beleif quhilk thou has eyk Of Ascanyvs vprysyng to estait. 1535 STEWART Cron. Scot. II. 235 In the feild sa mony als war slane, Without beleif to gif battell agane.

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