beg the question

beg the question

verb (used with object), begged, beg·ging.

  1. to ask for as a gift, as charity, or as a favor: to beg alms; to beg forgiveness.
  2. to ask (someone) to give or do something; implore: He begged me for mercy. Sit down, I beg you.
  3. to take for granted without basis or justification: a statement that begs the very point we’re disputing.
  4. to fail or refuse to come to grips with; avoid; evade: a report that consistently begs the whole problem.

verb (used without object), begged, beg·ging.

  1. to ask alms or charity; live by asking alms.
  2. to ask humbly or earnestly: begging for help; begging to differ.
  3. (of a dog) to sit up, as trained, in a posture of entreaty.

Verb Phrases

  1. beg off, to request or obtain release from an obligation, promise, etc.: He had promised to drive us to the recital but begged off at the last minute.

  1. beg the question, to assume the truth of the very point raised in a question.
  2. go begging, to remain open or available, as a position that is unfilled or an unsold item: The job went begging for lack of qualified applicants.

verb begs, begging or begged

  1. (when intr , often foll by for) to solicit (for money, food, etc), esp in the street
  2. to ask (someone) for (something or leave to do something) formally, humbly, or earnestlyI beg forgiveness; I beg to differ
  3. (intr) (of a dog) to sit up with forepaws raised expectantly
  4. to leave unanswered or unresolvedto beg a point
  5. beg the question
    1. to evade the issue
    2. to assume the thing under examination as proved
    3. to suggest that a question needs to be askedthe firm’s success begs the question: why aren’t more companies doing the same?
  6. go begging or go a-begging to be unwanted or unused


  1. a variant of bey

c.1200, perhaps from Old English bedecian “to beg,” from Proto-Germanic *beth-; or possibly from Anglo-French begger, from Old French begart (see beggar). The Old English word for “beg” was wædlian, from wædl “poverty.” Of trained dogs, 1816.

As a courteous mode of asking (beg pardon, etc.), first attested c.1600. To beg the question translates Latin petitio principii, and means “to assume something that hasn’t been proven as a basis of one’s argument,” thus “asking” one’s opponent to give something unearned, though more of the nature of taking it for granted without warrant.

To assume what has still to be proved: “To say that we should help the region’s democratic movement begs the question of whether it really is democratic.”

Take for granted or assume the truth of the very thing being questioned. For example, Shopping now for a dress to wear to the ceremony is really begging the question—she hasn’t been invited yet. This phrase, whose roots are in Aristotle’s writings on logic, came into English in the late 1500s. In the 1990s, however, people sometimes used the phrase as a synonym of “ask the question” (as in The article begs the question: “What are we afraid of?”).

In addition to the idioms beginning with beg

  • beginning of the end, the
  • begin to see daylight
  • begin to see the light
  • begin with
  • beg off
  • beg the question
  • beg to differ

also see:

  • go begging

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