Be That as It May: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
September 19, 2023

The phrase be that as it may is often utilized to acknowledge an inconvenient or unsettling truth while suggesting that the discussion or action should proceed regardless. It's a conversational pivot, a way to say, "I hear you, but let's move on."

In short:

"Be that as it may" is a phrase used to agree to a fact yet indicate that the fact should not stop or divert the ongoing action or conversation.

What Does "Be That as It May" Mean?

The idiom "be that as it may" serves as a transitional phrase, facilitating a shift in conversation. It acknowledges the veracity of a previous statement while making it clear that the current discussion will continue irrespective of that fact.

  • It's often used to recognize a counterargument or a point of contention without allowing it to derail the main topic.
  • When someone says "be that as it may," they're essentially saying, "Okay, your point may be valid, but it doesn't change the situation or my stance."
  • This phrase is often heard in debates and arguments, serving as a polite way to disagree or to move the conversation forward.

In essence, "be that as it may" serves as a linguistic bridge, guiding the conversation past a potentially distracting or irrelevant point.

Where Does "Be That as It May" Come From?

The idiom "be that as it may" has a long-standing history in the English language. It is commonly believed to have originated in the 16th century, appearing in early English literature.

"Be it as it will, it cannot be amended."

The above sentence, a precursor to the modern idiom, can be found in John Heywood's "A Dialogue Conteynyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue," published in 1546. Although not the exact phrase, it embodies the same meaning and serves as a historical marker for the idiom's early usage.

Evolution Over Time

Over the centuries, the phrase underwent various transformations before settling into its contemporary form. "Be it as it may" and "be it as it will" are variations that were frequently used during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Famous Usage

"Be that as it may, the whistle is certain to be blown."

The idiom gained prominence in political speeches and influential writings. For example, it was used in Winston Churchill's speeches during World War II, accentuating its importance in formal rhetoric.

10 Examples of "Be That as It May" in Sentences

To fully grasp the essence of "be that as it may," it's helpful to examine it in various contexts and settings.

Here are ten sentences that feature the idiom:

  • Be that as it may, I still believe we have a fighting chance to move forward in the tournament.
  • She missed the deadline, but be that as it may, her work is excellent.
  • You say he's not qualified, but be that as it may, he has a lot of experience.
  • He forgot to bring the documents. Be that as it may, we can still proceed with the meeting.
  • She didn't like the food. Be that as it may, she still assured us that the food was much appreciated.
  • The teacher may be strict; be that as it may, he's excellent at explaining difficult subjects.
  • They lost the first game, but be that as it may, they have four more games to turn things around.
  • We are in a pickle, but be that as it may, we can still finish on time with some effort.
  • The contract is not perfect, but be that as it may, we should take a leap of faith.
  • I don't think we'll get the approval today, but be that as it may, we should still commit to it.

These examples cover a range of scenarios and help to showcase how versatile and applicable this idiom is in daily communication.

Examples of "Be That as It May" in Pop Culture

The phrase "be that as it may" has appeared in various forms of media and literature, illustrating its widespread recognition and use.

Here are some real-life examples:

  • In the movie "Casablanca," the character Rick uses the phrase to show his indifference to political matters.
  • The idiom features in the lyrics of the song "Be That As It May" by Heritage Singers, emphasizing the theme of acceptance and perseverance.
  • A book titled "Be That As It May" by James Hadley Chase uses the phrase to hint at the unfolding unpredictable events in the storyline.
  • The popular TV series "Law & Order" has multiple episodes where characters have used "be that as it may" during courtroom scenes.
  • In "Forbes" articles discussing economic trends, the phrase is often used to transition between contrasting viewpoints.

The idiom's prevalence in pop culture underscores its applicability and resonance in various forms of human expression and understanding.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Be That as It May"

"Be that as it may" is a unique phrase, but other expressions can convey a similar sentiment.

Let's take a look at some alternatives:

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Be That as It May"

  • What does "be that as it may" mean?

It's an expression used to acknowledge a point made by someone else, but to indicate that the point isn't enough to change one's own perspective or situation.

  • Where did the phrase "be that as it may" originate?

The phrase is often attributed to Sir Thomas More, appearing in his work as far back as the 16th century.

  • Is "be that as it may" formal?

Yes, the phrase is generally considered formal and is more commonly used in written language or formal speech.

  • Can "be that as it may" start a sentence?

Yes, it can. In fact, it often serves as a transitional phrase between two contrasting statements.

  • Is it cliché to use "be that as it may"?

It's not necessarily cliché, but it is considered somewhat old-fashioned by some. Use it when you feel it suits the tone and context.

  • What's the difference between "be that as it may" and "however"?

"However" is more straightforward and doesn't carry the nuance of reluctant agreement that "be that as it may" does.

  • Can "be that as it may" be shortened?

There is no widely-accepted shorter form of this phrase. It's generally used in its complete form to preserve its meaning.

  • Is "be that as it may" commonly used in pop culture?

No, it's not a phrase you'll hear frequently in modern pop culture, though it does make appearances in classical literature and historical films.

  • Do other languages have a phrase equivalent to "be that as it may"?

Many languages have their own idioms that serve a similar function, but they may not translate exactly.

  • Is the phrase "be that as it may" dying out?

While it's less common in casual, everyday conversation, it still sees use in more formal or written contexts.

Final Thoughts About "Be That as It May"

In the whirlpool of idioms that make up the English language, "be that as it may" stands out as a formal, somewhat antiquated expression that nonetheless remains useful.

  • It is an idiom used for acknowledging another person's point while emphasizing that the point doesn't alter one's stance.
  • While not as popular in modern pop culture, it still has a place in formal writing and conversations.

Idioms like "be that as it may" enrich our language by adding depth and nuance, and understanding them opens up new dimensions of expression. So, the next time you find yourself in a situation where you need to acknowledge someone else's point but still hold your ground, you might just find this phrase to be the perfect fit.

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