before 900;Middle Englishbede prayer, prayer bead (where, on a rosary each bead symbolizes a prayer, the word for the notion symbolized was transferred to the designating object), Old Englishgebed prayer; akin to bid1, GermanGebet
late 14c., bede "prayer bead," from O.E. gebed "prayer," from P.Gmc. *beðan (cf. M.Du. bede, O.H.G. beta, Ger. bitte, Goth. bida "prayer, request"), from PIE *gwhedh- "to ask, pray." Shift in meaning came via beads threaded on a string to count prayers, and in phrases like to bid one's beads, to count one's beads. Ger. cognate Bitte is the usual word for conversational request "please." Also related to bid (O.E. biddan) and Goth. bidjan "to ask, pray." Sense transferred to "drop of liquid" 1590s; to "small knob forming front sight of a gun" 1831 (Kentucky slang); hence draw a bead on "take aim at," 1841, U.S. colloquial.