Beggar Belief – Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Did you know that you can “beggar” people by making them impoverished? And because of that, it’s also possible for something to “beggar belief” because it’s unbelievable.

Keep scrolling to learn all about the meaning and origin of the idiom beggar belief. I will also show you how to use this metaphorical expression in a sentence.

Meanings of “Beggar Belief”

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Beggar belief is not a phrase that means the beliefs of beggars. Instead, its true meaning as an idiomatic expression is to be undeserving of being believed or to become unbelievable. People also use the term as a verb meaning to defy belief.


  • Never be lured by the beggar belief narration about natural treatments for diseases.
  • Saying that strikes for people do nothing to disturb those in the upper hand beggars belief.

Origin of “Beggar Belief”

The idiom beggar belief comes from the verb to beggar, which means to make poor or impoverished. Another less common beggar meaning is something difficult to articulate. This sense of beggar only appears in British English.

In American English, the famous meaning of beggar is a noun that refers to an impoverished person.

Some people believe that beggar as a verb was coined by William Shakespeare. He used the term in 1616 in Antony & Cleopatra:

For her owne person It beggerd all discription.

However, it has been around since the early 16th century. Its earliest yet unpopular use in print was in William Roy’s Rede me and be nott wrothe.

Three centuries later, beggar as a verb was combined with belief to mean be unbelievable. The phrase was first found in John Whitley’s Completion of Prophecy. He used it in the 19th century to describe the “heathens” who didn’t believe in the Bible.

Think of an idea that seems fake or questionable to you. You might consider the idea that the Earth is flat, a view that beggars belief.

Begs Belief or Beggars Belief?

People often use beg instead of beggar because of their unfamiliarity with beggar as a verb. The correct and more common phrase is beggars belief, which is in the singular present tense. This Ngram presents the spike in the use of the idiom beggars belief.

Beggars Belief Ngram 1

Beggar Belief Synonyms

Here are other ways to say that something beggars belief:

  • [Something] is unbelievable.
  • [Something] is not deserving to be believed.
  • [Something] is questionable.
  • [Something] is debatable.

How to Use “Beggar Belief” in a Sentence

It beggars belief to suppose that trained intelligence officials were unaware of the circumstances in which suspects were detained. [Guardian]

Another Jewish Labour source said Momentum’s actions “beggar belief.” [Jewish News]

It beggars belief that the GOP is willing to risk national default for the sake of antitax purity. [Newsweek]

It does beggar belief, doesn’t it, to think that the #BuhariMustGo chanters have suddenly become daring, audacious and emboldened to confront Buhari, having long suffered from what I call “Buharophobia”, namely: cowardly silence and stinking hypocrisy? [Vanguard]

The fact that this has happened to a professional who has done all of his training here and has been offered a job here is beggar’s belief – it just doesn’t make sense. [Edinburgh Live]

Final Word on Beggar Belief

Now that you’re familiar with the word beggar as a verb, the meaning of beggar belief might already make sense to you. It’s an idiomatic expression that refers to be unbelievable.

You’ll find the phrase in Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra and John Whitley’s Completion of Prophecy.

Does this post beggar belief? We hope not because we’re telling the truth!