- the edible nutritious seed of various plants of the legume family, especially of the genus Phaseolus.
- a plant producing such seeds.
- the pod of such a plant, especially when immature and eaten as a vegetable.
- any of various other beanlike seeds or plants, as the coffee bean.
- a person’s head.
- a coin or a bank note considered as a coin: I can’t pay for the ticket, I don’t have a bean in my jeans.
- British Informal. a minimum amount of money: They’ve been disinherited and now haven’t a bean.
- beans, Informal. the slightest amount: He doesn’t know beans about navigation.
verb (used with object)
- Slang. to hit on the head, especially with a baseball.
- beans, (used to express disbelief, annoyance, etc.).
- full of beans, Informal.
- energetic; vigorously active; vital: He is still full of beans at 95.
- stupid; erroneous; misinformed.
- spill the beans, Informal. to disclose a secret, either accidentally or imprudently, thereby ruining a surprise or plan: He spilled the beans, and she knew all about the party in advance.
- any of various leguminous plants of the widely cultivated genus Phaseolus producing edible seeds in podsSee French bean, lima bean, scarlet runner, string bean
- any of several other leguminous plants that bear edible pods or seeds, such as the broad bean and soya bean
- any of various other plants whose seeds are produced in pods or podlike fruits
- the seed or pod of any of these plants
- any of various beanlike seeds, such as coffee
- US and Canadian slang another word for head
- cool beans slang excellent; impressive
- not have a bean slang to be without moneyI haven’t got a bean
- full of beans informal
- full of energy and vitality
- USmistaken; erroneous
- spill the beans informal to disclose something confidential
- mainly US and Canadian slang (tr) to hit (a person) on the head
Old English bean “bean, pea, legume,” from Proto-Germanic *bauno (cf. Old Norse baun, Middle Dutch bone, Dutch boon, Old High German bona, German Bohne), perhaps from a PIE reduplicated base *bha-bha- and related to Latin faba “bean.”
As a metaphor for “something of small value” it is attested from c.1300. Meaning “head” is U.S. baseball slang c.1905 (in bean-ball “a pitch thrown at the head”); thus slang verb bean meaning “to hit on the head,” attested from 1910.
The notion of lucky or magic beans in English folklore is from the exotic beans or large seeds that wash up occasionally in Cornwall and western Scotland, carried from the Caribbean or South America by the Gulf Stream. They were cherished, believed to ward off the evil eye and aid in childbirth.
Slang bean-counter “accountant” recorded by 1971. To not know beans (American English, 1933) is perhaps from the “of little worth” sense, but may have a connection to colloquial expression recorded around Somerset, to know how many beans make five “be a clever fellow.”
see full of beans; not have a bean; not know beans; not worth a dime (bean); spill the beans; tough break (beans).