Stories We Like: Novels For Language Lovers
c.1200, "use, benefit, advantage;" Old English had bihoflic "useful," implying *bihof "advantage, utility;" from Proto-Germanic *bi-hof "that which binds, requirement, obligation" (cf. Old Frisian bihof "advantage," Dutch behoef, Middle High German bihuof "useful thing," German Behuf "benefit, use, advantage"). In the common Germanic compound, the first element, likely intensive, is cognate with be- and the second with Old English hof, past tense of hebban "to raise" (see heave (v.)). The original sense is perhaps, then, "taking up (for oneself)."