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

1 thought on “Beeline”

  1. Beekeeper, here. Just before a storm, foraging bees take the shortest route from their foraging grounds to home. It is distinctive flight, different from their return home at any other time. Fast, straight and impressively precise. If the weather looks threatening, but the bees are dawdling at the hive entrance, don’t worry about the rain (lightening doesn’t seem to alarm them, however).


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