Beat and Beet

Commonly Confused Words

beat and beet
A bunch of freshly picked beetroot. (Kevin Summers/Getty Images)

The words beat and beet are homophones: they sound alike but have different meanings.

Definitions

As a verb, beat has several meanings, including to hit repeatedly, strike, spank, force, search, defeat, and mark time. (Note that the past tense of beat is beat, but the past participle is beaten.)

The noun beat refers to a blow, a sound, a pronounced rhythm, or an habitual path or round of duty.

The noun beet refers to a plant with a purplish red root that's used as a vegetable.

Examples

  • As a baby, my daughter used to beat against the bars of her crib until we lifted her out.
     
  • Sean liked any kind of music as long as it had a hard driving beat.
     
  • I tried to beat the traffic by leaving work early, but unfortunately everybody else had the same idea. 
     
  • "'Ricci said [the rug] once belonged to Marie Dressier and cost fifteen hundred dollars, but there's a burnt place on it. Can you beat that?'"

    "'No,' she said."
    (Katherine Anne Porter, "Theft." The Gyroscope, 1930)
     
  • "Louise and Raymond Jr. had been in grade school when Raymond and Martha had bought a beat-up old white clapboard house two stories tall and one room wide, roofed with tin, that sat on a foundation of stacked stones in a valley at the foot of Scaly Mountain, North Carolina."
    (Pam Durban, "Soon." The Southern Review, 1997)
     
  • I planted a beet and a French turnip to see how vegetable roots flower.
     
  • "A perfect day in the city always starts like this: my friend Leo picks me up and we go to a breakfast place called Rick and Ann's where they make red flannel hash out of beets and bacon, and then we cross the Bay Bridge to the gardens of the Palace of the Fine Arts to sit in the wet grass and read poems out loud and talk about love."
    (Pam Houston, "The Best Girlfriend You Never Had." Other Voices, 1999)


    Usage Notes

    • "The verb and noun beat should not be confused with the noun beet, which refers in British English to sugar beet and in American English to beetroot."
      (Martin Manser, Good Word Guide, 7th ed. Bloomsbury, 2011)
       
    • "Changes in phonemes produce changes in meaning. Variations in the vowel sound between b and t create 12 different meanings: bait, bat, beat/beet, bet, bit, bite, boat, boot, bought, bout, and but (Fromkin and Rodman, 1983).  Generally, though, consonant phonemes carry more information than do vowel phonemes. The treth ef thes stetement shed be evedent frem thes bref demenstretien."
      (David G. Myers, Psychology: Myers in Modules, 6th ed. Worth, 2001)


      Idiom Alerts

      • The expression to beat around the bush means to ramble, to avoid speaking directly or getting to the point of an issue.
        "I would talk to these children about blindness and guide dogs. Then I would ask them if they had any questions. Children are very straightforward; they don't beat around the bush."
        (E. Michael Lorance and Patricia W. Floyd, Out of the Darkness Into Light. Westbow, 2012)
         
      • The expression to beat a dead horse means to waste effort (speaking or acting) when there's no possibility of succeeding or making progress.
        "Without broader structural changes . . ., we can expect little improvement in the lives of immigrant youth. . . . Right now, the efforts being made to improve the lives of immigrant youth and marginalized populations amount to little more than beating a dead horse."
        (Sandra M. Bucerius, Unwanted: Muslim Immigrants, Dignity, and Drug Dealing. Oxford University Press, 2014)
         

      Practice

      (a) Shyla stared at the man whose long nose was the color of a raw _____.

      (b) _____ the eggs until the yolks and whites are blended.

      (c) "I felt ____ from a night of lousy sleep and I felt ____ because of what had happened to Butterworth."
      (Stephen Dobyns, Saratoga Fleshpot. Penguin, 1995) 
       

      Answers to Practice Exercises

      Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words


      200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs

      Answers to Practice Exercises: Beat and Beet

      (a) Shyla stared at the man whose long nose was the color of a raw beet.

      (b) Beat the eggs until the yolks and whites are blended.

      (c) "I felt beat from a night of lousy sleep and I felt beat because of what had happened to Butterworth."
      (Stephen Dobyns, Saratoga Fleshpot. Penguin, 1995) 

      Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words