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Bees are purported to have a powerful sense of direction that enables one to return via a straight line to its hive from any location. We can’t vouch for the science here, but the idea underlies the word beeline, which means a direct, straight course.1 The word also works as a verb (inflected beelined and beelining) meaning to move swiftly in a direct, straight course.2  It has been in English at least since the early 19th century; the oldest example cited in the OED is from 1830.

Many dictionaries list the word with a hyphenbee-line—and it sometimes appears as two distinct words. But English’s compounding impulse has done its work. This ngram indicates that the one-word, unhyphenated beeline overcame the alternatives over half a century ago.

Beeline Vs Bee line English


My gang makes a beeline for the closest roller coaster, the Dragon. [Washington Post]

I’ll spot a menu guy as I’m darting down the street, late for an important meeting, and beeline over for one of my own. [Try This, Danyelle Freeman]

In recent days, as Gingrich beelined to the top of polling, examination of his past intensified. [Des Moines Register]

[H]e took a shortcut through the sandbox, sending sand and shovels flying as he made a beeline for the coveted Big Wheel tricycle. [The Male Brain, Louann Brizendine]

On the upside, investors made a beeline for stocks with defensive qualities or where earnings are relatively less prone to the economic cycle. [Independent]


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Other resources

“Make a bee-line for” at The Phrase Finder

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