BEADS – A History

Have you ever wondered where the word “bead” came from?  Finding out about the history of a word and how it came to mean what it does has always been a favorite past time of mine …. and since May is the month of BEADS, I thought I would do some digging into this word.

The Curious History of “Bead”

by Maeve Maddox  from
An excerpt from “The Curious History of “Bead”
This general sense of bead derived in turn from rosary beads, the little markers strung together for the purpose of helping a worshipper count prayers.

Originally, “beads” were not the little objects on the string, but the prayers being said. Bead in this sense is a cognate of German bitte, a word that is used to make a request. Someone praying with a rosary was said to be “telling his beads,” that is, counting his prayers. Another meaning of the verb to tell is “to count.” (The bank teller counts out your money.) Historically, wealthy patrons would pay people to pray for them on a regular basis. These professionals were called beadsmen or beadswomen …

An earlier spelling of bead was bede, from Old English gebed, “prayer.” The OE verb biddan meant “to pray” as well as “to ask.” By the late 14th century, the word bede/bead had attached to the objects on which the prayers were told or counted.

Aren’t these fun???  And so easy to make – all you need is a cord, a short length of beads and a nut from the hardware store.  Get the low down on these awesome DIY bead bracelets by the gals from


And don’t be afraid to use bold colors and experiment with different materials!

Rough Diamond Beads – Siam Gem Palace

Natural Columbian Emerald Rondelle Beads


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