at someone's beck and call


1 [bek]
a gesture used to signal, summon, or direct someone.
Chiefly Scot. a bow or curtsy of greeting.
verb (used with object), verb (used without object)
Archaic. beckon.
at someone's beck and call, ready to do someone's bidding; subject to someone's slightest wish: He has three servants at his beck and call.

1325–75; Middle English becken, short variant of becnen to beckon Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
beck1 (bɛk)
1.  a nod, wave, or other gesture or signal
2.  at someone's beck and call ready to obey someone's orders instantly; subject to someone's slightest whim
[C14: short for becnen to beckon]

beck2 (bɛk)
(in N England) a stream, esp a swiftly flowing one
[Old English becc, from Old Norse bekkr; related to Old English bece, Old Saxon beki, Old High German bah brook, Sanskrit bhanga wave]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 14c., "mute signal," from bekken (v.), var. of becnan "to beckon" (see beckon). Transferred sense of "slightest indication of will" is from late 15c.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

at someone's beck and call

Required to comply with someone's requests or commands, as in The boss expects the entire staff to be at his beck and call. The noun beck, now obsolete except in this idiom, meant "a gesture or signal of command, such as a nod or hand movement," whereas call signifies "a vocal summons." Also see dance attendance on.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Idioms & Phrases
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