I read somewhere that the prefix be- can be used as a causative and this got me thinking. Does this mean that because means to cause to cause or to make cause?

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    Here's a good summary of the main different meanings of be- as a prefix. 1) thoroughly (bespeckled), 2) to cause to seem (belittle), 3) to provide with (beloved). But as the answers indicate, because doesn't use this prefix - it's by-. Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 2:35

2 Answers 2


From OED (the other one):


c.1300, bi cause "by cause," modeled on Fr. par cause. Originally a phrase, often followed by a subordinate clause introduced by that or why. One word from c.1400. As an adverb from late 14c.

  • Thankyou very much for this. I have also just thought of the words 'bemoan' and 'befall'. do these therefore their meanings as by moan(ing) or by fall(ing) have? Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 23:52
  • bemoan comes from Old English 'to bemoan, wail, lament'. befall comes from Old English 'to deprive of; fall to, be assigned to' but also from from befall, and befall from be- "by, about" + feallan (see fall). Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 0:11

The word 'because' originated from 'bi cause' or 'by cause' and not be-cause. So because does not mean to cause to cause.

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