verb (used without object), be·lieved, be·liev·ing.

  1. to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so: Only if one believes in something can one act purposefully.

verb (used with object), be·lieved, be·liev·ing.

  1. to have confidence or faith in the truth of (a positive assertion, story, etc.); give credence to.
  2. to have confidence in the assertions of (a person).
  3. to have a conviction that (a person or thing) is, has been, or will be engaged in a given action or involved in a given situation: The fugitive is believed to be headed for the Mexican border.
  4. to suppose or assume; understand (usually followed by a noun clause): I believe that he has left town.

Verb Phrases

  1. believe in,
    1. to be persuaded of the truth or existence of: to believe in Zoroastrianism; to believe in ghosts.
    2. to have faith in the reliability, honesty, benevolence, etc., of: I can help only if you believe in me.

  1. make believe. make1(def 68).


  1. (tr; may take a clause as object) to accept (a statement, supposition, or opinion) as trueI believe God exists
  2. (tr) to accept the statement or opinion of (a person) as true
  3. (intr foll by in) to be convinced of the truth or existence (of)to believe in fairies
  4. (intr) to have religious faith
  5. (when tr, takes a clause as object) to think, assume, or supposeI believe that he has left already
  6. (tr; foll by of; used with can, could, would, etc) to think that someone is able to do (a particular action)I wouldn’t have believed it of him

Old English belyfan “to believe,” earlier geleafa (Mercian), gelefa (Northumbrian), gelyfan (West Saxon) “believe,” from Proto-Germanic *ga-laubjan “to believe,” perhaps literally “hold dear, love” (cf. Old Saxon gilobian “believe,” Dutch geloven, Old High German gilouben, German glauben), ultimately a compound based on PIE *leubh- “to care, desire, love” (see belief).

Spelling beleeve is common till 17c.; then altered, perhaps by influence of relieve, etc. To believe on instead of in was more common in 16c. but now is a peculiarity of theology; believe of also sometimes was used in 17c. Related: Believed (formerly occasionally beleft); believing. Expression believe it or not attested by 1874; Robert Ripley’s newspaper cartoon of the same name is from 1918. Emphatic you better believe attested from 1854.

see seeing is believing.

In addition to the idioms beginning with believe

  • believe it or not
  • believe one’s ears

also see:

  • lead one to believe
  • make believe
  • you’d better believe it

Also seeseeing is believing.

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