1. a guiding or warning signal, as a light or fire, especially one in an elevated position.
  2. a tower or hill used for such purposes.
  3. a lighthouse, signal buoy, etc., on a shore or at a dangerous area at sea to warn and guide vessels.
  4. Navigation.
    1. radio beacon.
    2. a radar device at a fixed location that, upon receiving a radar pulse, transmits a reply pulse that enables the original sender to determine his or her position relative to the fixed location.
  5. a person, act, or thing that warns or guides.
  6. a person or thing that illuminates or inspires: The Bible has been our beacon during this trouble.
  7. Digital Technology. web beacon.

verb (used with object)

  1. to serve as a beacon to; warn or guide.
  2. to furnish or mark with beacons: a ship assigned to beacon the shoals.

verb (used without object)

  1. to serve or shine as a beacon: A steady light beaconed from the shore.


  1. a signal fire or light on a hill, tower, etc, esp one used formerly as a warning of invasion
  2. a hill on which such fires were lit
  3. a lighthouse, signalling buoy, etc, used to warn or guide ships in dangerous waters
  4. short for radio beacon
  5. a radio or other signal marking a flight course in air navigation
  6. short for Belisha beacon
  7. a person or thing that serves as a guide, inspiration, or warning
  8. a stone set by a surveyor to mark a corner or line of a site boundary, etc


  1. to guide or warn
  2. (intr) to shine

Old English beacen “sign, portent, lighthouse,” from West Germanic *baukna “beacon, signal” (cf. Old Frisian baken, Old Saxon bokan, Old High German bouhhan); not found outside Germanic. Perhaps borrowed from Latin bucina “a crooked horn or trumpet, signal horn.” But more likely from PIE *bhew-, a variant of the base *bha- “to gleam, shine” (see phantasm). Figurative use from c.1600.

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