Ask Your Question

Revision history [back]

Wiktionary seems to have a reasonable explanation:

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/be-

The source they give is the OED, which states:

"Old English be-, weak or stressless form of the prep. and adv. bí (big), by n.^1   The original Teutonic form was, as in Gothic, bi, with short vowel, prob. cognate with second syllable of Greek ἀμϕί, Latin ambi; in Old High German and early Old English, when it had the stress, as a separate word, and in compounds formed with a noun, it was lengthened to bī (bî, bí), while the stressless form, in compounds formed with a vb. or indeclinable word, remained bi-; in later Old English, as in Middle High German and modern German, the latter was obscured to be- (also occasional in Old English as an unaccented form of the preposition): cf. Old English bí-gęng practice, bi-gangan, be-gangan, to practise. In early Middle English the etymological bi-, by- regularly reappeared in compounds as the stressless form; but in later times be- was finally restored. [snip] In modern use, the unaccented prefix is always be-; the accented form by- (sometimes spelt bye-) occurs in one or two words descended from Old English, as ˈby-law, ˈby-word (Old English bí-lage, bí-word), and in modern formations on the adv., as ˈby-gone, ˈby-name, ˈby-play, ˈby-road, ˈby-stander."

The OED gives more information, but you should probably log in to see it. :)

Wiktionary seems to have a reasonable explanation:

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/be-

The source they give is the OED, which states:

"Old English be-, weak or stressless form of the prep. and adv. bí (big), by n.^1   The original Teutonic form was, as in Gothic, bi, with short vowel, prob. cognate with second syllable of Greek ἀμϕί, Latin ambi; in Old High German and early Old English, when it had the stress, as a separate word, and in compounds formed with a noun, it was lengthened to bī (bî, bí), while the stressless form, in compounds formed with a vb. or indeclinable word, remained bi-; in later Old English, as in Middle High German and modern German, the latter was obscured to be- (also occasional in Old English as an unaccented form of the preposition): cf. Old English bí-gęng practice, bi-gangan, be-gangan, to practise. In early Middle English the etymological bi-, by- regularly reappeared in compounds as the stressless form; but in later times be- was finally restored. [snip] In modern use, the unaccented prefix is always be-; the accented form by- (sometimes spelt bye-) occurs in one or two words descended from Old English, as ˈby-law, ˈby-word (Old English bí-lage, bí-word), and in modern formations on the adv., as ˈby-gone, ˈby-name, ˈby-play, ˈby-road, ˈby-stander."

The OED gives more information, but you should probably log in to see it. :)

information (including for "believe" and "beguile").