- a dance in bolero rhythm that originated in Martinique.
- a modern social dance based on the beguine.
- music for either of these dances.
noun Roman Catholic Church.
- a member of a lay sisterhood, founded in Liège in the 12th century.
- a dance of South American origin in bolero rhythm
- a piece of music in the rhythm of this dance
- a variant of biggin 1
- a member of a Christian sisterhood that was founded in Liège in the 12th century, and, though not taking religious vows, followed an austere life
late 15c., from French béguine (13c.), Medieval Latin beguina, a member of a women’s spiritual order said to have been founded c.1180 in Liege in the Low Countries. They are said to take their name from the surname of Lambert le Bègue “Lambert the Stammerer,” a Liege priest who was instrumental in their founding, and it’s likely the word was pejorative at first.
The order generally preserved its reputation, though it quickly drew imposters who did not; nonetheless it eventually was condemned as heretical. A male order, called Beghards founded communities by the 1220s in imitation of them, but they soon degenerated (cf. Old French beguin “(male) Beguin,” also “hypocrite”) and wandered begging in the guise of religion; they likely were the source of the words beg and beggar, though there is disagreement over whether Beghard produced Middle Dutch beggaert “mendicant” or was produced by it.
Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine” (1935) refers to a kind of popular dance of West Indian origin, from French colloquial béguin “an infatuation, boyfriend, girlfriend,” earlier “child’s bonnet,” and before that “nun’s headdress” (14c.), from Middle Dutch beggaert, ultimately the same word.