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Note 247 – Definition and Origin of ‘Beck and Call’

When I used the phrase beck and call in Have you Asked for Time to Yourself? (one of my other blogs), I made a mental note that I was going to define it at some point, and find out a little bit more about its origin.  According to, a person who is at your beck and call is “someone who does everything for you, no matter when you ask”. 

The Free  states that beck is a “a gesture of beckoning or summons” and the idiom beck and call means “ready to comply with any wish or command”.

Wiki Answers has a few interesting comments where someone has asked if the phrase should be ‘beckon call’ or even ‘beckoned call’; however, they were both disputed on the site as being incorrect.  Someone then added that beck is just a shorted version of beckon (old Germanic word for ‘signal’), but even though the word beck was around in 1300s (also confirmed in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary), the phrase beck and call actually only dates back to 1875.

I do like one of the explanations on Wiki Answers where they state that “beck is a silent summoning, as in a nod or other gesture or a beacon, and a call is a sounded summoning, as in a shout or other type of oral command or a bugle or drum.”

Phrasefinder have an entry from from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary: “at one’s beck and call: ready to obey one’s command immediately”. (Note: I haven’t been able to trace this back to Merriam-Webster online dictionary).

The use of beck and call in a sentence

  • As a servant, Simon is at his master’s beck and call.
  • “I feel like I am at your beck and call, now that you have broken your leg!” said Susan.

Have you got anything else to add for the meaning or origin of this phrase?

That’s it for today.

Until tomorrow…

Freelance Writer


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


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