I read that beard can mean something like "confront someone".. When did a word that means a little facial hair turn into a hostile verb?
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closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, Drew, medica, Mysti, tchrist Feb 12 '15 at 23:48
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According to the online etymology dictionary, the sense of the word beard meaning to "confront boldly" is from Middle English phrases such as rennen in berd "oppose openly" (c.1200), reproven in the berd "to rebuke directly and personally" (c.1400), which is the same notion as the modern slang, to get in (someone's) face.
An example of the alternative usage of the word "beard" can be found in the book, Dying Testimonies of Saved and Unsaved. The book was authored and entered in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, 1898, by S.B. Shaw. Including the dying accounts of many others, Shaw also details the death of Martin Luther, the great theologian and extraordinary reformer of the Christian faith. His professed and published tenants were directly responsible for the establishment of the Protestant faith. Thereupon at severe odds with the Catholic Church leadership, his life was in constant danger. Years of hiding and stress may have been related to a myriad of illnesses in his later life. He died on February 18, 1546, at the age of 62.
Page 180 of S.B. Shaw's published work (the relevant account entitled "Triumphant Death of Martin Luther") includes the following relevant sentence:
"He could beard the Papacy and imperial councils, yet he fell trustingly before the cross."
Recorded instances of the verb beard used in a confrontational sense go back very far indeed. A Google Books search over the period 1550 to 1800 turns up three instances from the 1500s.
From a letter (#2064) from Sir William Drury to Cecil, March 13, 1568, in Public Record Office, Calendar of State Papers, Foreign Series, of the Rein of Elizabeth, 1566–8:
From H. Jackson, Ludus Scacchiae: Chesse-Play (1597):
Fom Edward Guilpin, Skialetheia: Or, A Shdowe of Truth, in Certain Epigrams and Satyres (1598):
To illustrate the continuity of this usage, I also note a couple of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century occurrences. From William Temple, Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands (1687):
And from Thomas Blackwell, Memoirs of the Court of Augustus, volume 1 (1753):