O.E. wel faran, condition of being or doing well, from wel (see well (adv.)) + faran "get along" (see fare (2)). Meaning "social concern for the well-being of children, the unemployed, etc." is first attested 1904.


well (adv.)

"in a satisfactory manner," O.E. wel, from the same Gmc. source as O.E. willan "to wish" (see will (2)), from PIE *wel-, *wol-. Also used as an interjection and an expression of surprise in O.E. Well-done "thoroughly cooked" is attested from 1747; well-nigh is O.E. wel neah. Wellaway is M.E. alteration of O.E. wa la wa, from wa "woe." Well-done (of meat) is first attested 1846; well-known is from 1470; well-hung in male genital sense is from 1611; well off in the sense of "comfortable" is from 1733; well-to-do in this meaning is from 1825; well-heeled is from 1897 (see heel (n.)).


well (v.)

"to spring, rise, gush," O.E. wiellan (Anglian wllan), causative of weallan "to boil, bubble up" (class VII strong verb; past tense weoll, pp. weallen), from P.Gmc. *wal-, *wel- "roll." The noun meaning "hole dug for water, spring of water," is from O.E. wielle (W.Saxon),


being (n.)

"existence," c.1325, from be (q.v.) + -ing. Sense in human being is from 1751.



O.E. beon, beom, bion "be, exist, come to be, become," from P.Gmc. *beo-, *beu-. Roger Lass ("Old English") describes the verb as "a collection of semantically related paradigm fragments," while Weekley calls it "an accidental conglomeration from the different Old English dial[ect]s." It is the most irregular verb in Mod.E. and the most common. Collective in all Gmc. languages, it has eight different forms in Mod.E.: BE (infinitive, subjunctive, imperative), AM (present 1st person singular), ARE (present 2nd person singular and all plural), IS (present 3rd person singular), WAS (past 1st and 3rd persons singular), WERE (past 2nd person singular, all plural; subjunctive), BEING (progressive & present participle; gerund), BEEN (perfect participle). The modern verb represents the merger of two once-distinct verbs, the "b-root" represented by be and the am/was verb, which was itself a conglomerate. The "b-root" is from PIE base *bheu-, *bhu- "grow, come into being, become," and in addition to Eng. it yielded Ger. present first and second person sing. (bin, bist, from O.H.G. bim "I am," bist "thou art"), L. perf. tenses of esse (fui "I was," etc.), O.C.S. byti "be," Gk. phu- "become," O.Ir. bi'u "I am," Lith. bu'ti "to be," Rus. byt' "to be," etc. It is also behind Skt. bhavah "becoming," bhavati "becomes, happens," bhumih "earth, world." The paradigm in O.E. was:




1st pres.

ic eom
ic beo

we sind(on)
we beo

2nd pres.

u eart
u bist

ge sind(on)
ge beo

3rd pres.

he is
he bi

hie sind(on)
hie beo

1st pret.

ic ws

we wron

2nd pret.

u wre

ge waeron

3rd pret.

heo ws

hie wron

1st pret. subj.

ic wre

we wren

2nd pret. subj.

u wre

ge wren

3rd pret. subj.

Egcfer wre

hie wren

The "b-root" had no past tense in O.E., but often served as future tense of am/was. In 13c. it took the place of the infinitive, participle and imperative forms of am/was. Later its plural forms (we beth, ye ben, they be) became standard in M.E. and it made inroads into the singular (I be, thou beest, he beth), but forms of are claimed this turf in the 1500s and replaced be in the plural. For the origin and evolution of the am/was branches of this tangle, see am and was. The phrase be-all and end all is from Shakespeare ("Macbeth," I.vii.5).



weak form of O.E. bi "by," probably cognate with second syllable of Gk. amphi, L. ambi and originally meaning "about." This sense naturally drifted into intensive (cf. bespatter "spatter about," therefore "spatter very much"). Be- can also be privative (cf. behead), causative, or have just about any sense required. The prefix was productive 16c.-17c. in forming useful words, many of which have not survived, e.g. bethwack "to thrash soundly" (1555), betongue "to assail in speech, to scold" (1639).



c.1384, from O.Fr. existence, from L.L. existentem "existent," prp. of L. existere "stand forth, appear," and, as a secondary meaning, "exist;" from ex- "forth" + sistere "cause to stand," from stare "stand." Existential as a term in logic is from 1819. Existentialism is 1941 from Ger. Existentialismus (1919), ult. from Dan. writer Sren Kierkegaard (1813-55), who wrote (1846) of Existents-Forhold "condition of existence," existentielle Pathos, etc.


From: Douglas Harper:


http://www.etymonline.com/ - 27.10.2003