- To present or convey something as a gift or award
- To apply something toward a particular end; to utilize something
- To deposit a person or place at a particular location (Archaic)
If you're a generous person, then bestow might be a good word for you to be familiar with. Originally, bestow meant simply "to put or place something somewhere," but today it is most commonly used to mean "convey something to someone as a gift or award." Thus, you could bestow $500,000 on an orphanage in Peru. However, while it is not incorrect to use bestow in that way, it is rather unusual. More commonly, people use bestow to speak about conferring a particular prize on someone who has earned it. For example, as a judge at a country fair, you might bestow the blue ribbon on Mrs. Montgomery for her superb apple pie. Or the President of the United States might bestow honor upon a distinguished war hero by awarding him a medal.
There is another somewhat distinct way you might employ bestow in modern usage. Bestow can also communicate the action of "putting something to some use." Bestow is most commonly used this way in connection with "time." If you were to dedicate most of your time to binge eating crackers, for example, you would probably eventually realize that you had not bestowed your time wisely. Bestow here could be thought of as giving time to a particular thing or using time as a resource.
Example: Paul was ecstatic when Sarah bestowed a kiss upon his lips.
Example: When the philanthropist saw children learning in the library which he had helped to build, he felt confident that his money had been well bestowed.
Example: The stable boy will bestow your steed in the stable.
Bestow entered English in the 14th century. It derives from the Early English bistowen which meant "to give." Bistowen is a verb usage of the Old English noun stow meaning place which in turn originated from the Proto-Germanic stowo which also means "place or location."
Bestows: The present third person singular tense of bestow indicates an ongoing action of giving or granting.
Example: The king bestows rewards to whomever he sees fit.
Bestowed: This past tense of bestow can also be used as an adjective form describing something which has been bestowed.
Example: The king bestowed land and goods to Sir Collins.
Example: "I shall not regret granting you this well-bestowed reward!" declared the king to Sir Collins.
Bestowing: This is the present participle or gerund form of bestow. It is used when the action, i.e. bestow, is happening at the current time or is continually occurring.
Example: The king enjoys bestowing gifts on worthy knights.
Example: Bestowing gifts on worthy knights is one of the king's favorite activities.
Bestowal: Bestowal is a noun referring to the act or process of bestowing.
Example: The king awarded Sir Collins a generous bestowal of land and goods.
Bestowment: Bestowment is a noun referring to the act or process of bestowing.
Example: The king awarded Sir Collins a generous bestowment of land and goods.
Bestower: A bestower is someone who bestows something to someone.
Example: The minister taught his congregation that God is the supreme bestower of all good things.
Example: Sir Collins praised the king as the most generous bestower.
From Alexander Pope's Translation of Homer's The Odyssey:
Know from the bounteous heaven all riches flow;And what man gives, the gods by man bestow.
Here, Odysseus argues that any good thing received by people in life is ultimately a gift given to them by the gods, even if other humans are the agents through which the gods give those gifts.
Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of bestow. Did you use bestow in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.