Old English beacen "sign, portent, lighthouse," from West Germanic *baukna "beacon, signal" (cf. Old Frisian baken, Old Saxon bokan, Old High German bouhhan); not found outside Germanic. Perhaps borrowed from Latin bucina "a crooked horn or trumpet, signal horn." But more likely from PIE *bhew-, a variant of the base *bha- "to gleam, shine" (see phantasm). Figurative use from c.1600.
a pole (Heb. to'ren) used as a standard or ensign set on the tops of mountains as a call to the people to assemble themselves for some great national purpose (Isa. 30:17). In Isa. 33:23 and Ezek. 27:5, the same word is rendered "mast." (See Banner.)