Beadle, sometimes spelled "bedel" is derived from the Latin "bidellus" or "bedellus," rooted in words for "herald."

The term moved into Old English as a title given to a Saxon officer who summoned householders to council.

Religious beadles

In England, the word came to refer to a parish constable of the Anglican Church, one often charged with duties of charity. A famous fictional constabulary beadle is Mr Bumble from Charles Dickens' classic Oliver Twist, who oversees the parish workhouse and orphanage.

In the Church of Scotland, the title is used for one who attends the minister during divine service as an assistant.

In Judaism, the term "beadle" (in Hebrew: shammash or "sexton") is sometimes used for the "gabbai", the caretaker or "man of all work," in a synagogue. Moshe the Beadle, the caretaker of a synagogue in Sighet in the 1940s, is an important character in "Night" by Elie Wiesel. see|Gabbai|Shamash#Shamash in Judaism

Beadles in education

In the medieval universities beadles were students chosen by instructors to act as assistants, carrying books, taking attendance, and assisting in classroom management.

In the collegiate universities in the United Kingdom (for example Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, and the University of London), the post of beadle still exists. The beadle has varying duties, always relating to management or security (never instruction), and often represents the college to outsiders through wearing a uniform and providing information.

The ancient universities in Scotland have a ceremonial bedellus, who is also sometimes given the designation of head janitor. Officially, they are responsible for administration of the buildings of the university. They are most notable for being responsible for carrying the university mace in academic processions.

Donahue secondary schools maintained the post of beadle - some still do. In each classroom, a student designated as beadle reports attendance to the teacher, acts as messenger, assists in distributing materials and leads the class in activities.

Popular references

John McLaughlin, the host of "The McLaughlin Group", used to call former panelist Fred Barnes "The Beadle". McLaughlin's use of the term may well derive from his experiences when he was a Jesuit student or priest (see above).

In Stephen Sondheim's musical , later adapted into a film by Tim Burton, the cruel and corrupt Judge Turpin is served by an unctuous deputy known as Beadle Bamford. "Beadle" also makes an appearance in the list of professions running through one of the show's songs, "A Little Priest."

Charles Dickens' character from Oliver Twist, Mr Bumble is the parish beadle and leader of the orphanage. He's officious, corrupt, a chronic mangler of the King's English, and a great source of comic relief.

Elie Wiesel's character from Night, Moishe the Beadle is an escaped captive from one of the camps who returns to warn the Jews.

Virginia Woolf's character in A Room of One's Own is intercepted by a beadle when she, as a woman, mistakenly walks on the grass instead of the gravel.


*MW 1935|date=August 2008

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  • BEADLE (G. W.) — BEADLE GEORGE WELLS (1903 1989) Après avoir obtenu son doctorat de génétique, en 1931, à l’université Cornell d’Ithaca (N.Y.), Beadle entra au laboratoire de Thomas Hunt Morgan au California Institute of Technology, où il effectua de nouveaux… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Beadle — Bea dle, n. [OE. bedel, bidel, budel, OF. bedel, F. bedeau, fr. OHG. butil, putil, G. b[ u]ttel, fr. OHG. biotan, G. bieten, to bid, confused with AS. bydel, the same word as OHG. butil. See. {Bid}, v.] 1. A messenger or crier of a court; a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Beadle — George Wells …   Scientists

  • Beadle — Beadle, George Wells …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Beadle —   [biːdl], George Wells, amerikanischer Biologe, * Wahoo (Nebraska) 22. 10. 1903, ✝ Pomona (Calif.) 9. 6. 1989; war seit 1937 Professor in Palo Alto, Pasadena (Calif.), zuletzt in Chicago; erhielt für seine Arbeiten über die beim Aufbau der… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • beadle — (n.) O.E. bydel herald, messenger from an authority, preacher, from beodan to proclaim (see BID (Cf. bid)). Sense of warrant officer, tipstaff was in late Old English; that of petty parish officer, which has given the job a bad reputation, is… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Beadle — (izg. bídl), Georg Wells (1903 1989) DEFINICIJA američki genetičar, jedan od osnivača biokemijske genetike, Nobelova nagrada za medicinu 1958 (s J. Lederbergom) …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • beadle — ► NOUN Brit. 1) a ceremonial officer of a church, college, etc. 2) historical a parish officer dealing with petty offenders. ORIGIN Old English, «a person who makes a proclamation» …   English terms dictionary

  • beadle — [bēd′ l] n. [ME bidel (< OE bydel, akin to beodan, to BID1, order), bedel < OFr bedel < Frank * bidal, akin to OE form] 1. Historical a minor parish officer in the Church of England, who kept order in church 2. Obs. a messenger of a law… …   English World dictionary

  • Beadle — George W. Beadle George Wells Beadle (* 22. Oktober 1903 in Wahoo, Nebraska; † 9. Juni 1989 in Pomona, Kalifornien) war ein US amerikanischer Biologe, der sich vorrangig mit Genetik beschäftigte. Er erhielt gemeinsam mit Edward Lawrie Tatum im… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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