Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Bead (Anglo-Saxon, bed, a prayer).

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Bead (Anglo-Saxon, bed, a prayer).
When little balls with a hole through them were used for keeping account of the number of prayers repeated, the term was applied to the prayers also. (See BEADSMAN.)   1
   To count one’s beads. To say one’s prayers. In the Catholic Church beads are threaded on a string, some large and some small, to assist in keeping count how often a person repeats a certain form of words.   2
   To pray without one’s beads. To be out of one’s reckoning. (See above.)   3
   Baily’s Beads. When the disc of the moon has (in an eclipse) reduced that of the sun to a thin crescent, the crescent assumes the appearance of a string of beads. This was first observed by Francis Baily, whence the name of the phenomenon.   4
   St. Cuthbert’s Beads. Single joints of the articulated stems of encrinites. They are perforated in the centre, and bear a fanciful resemblance to a-cross; hence, they were once used for rosaries (beads). St. Cuthbert was a Scotch monk of the sixth century, and may be called the St. Patrick of the north of England and south of Scotland.   5
   St. Martin’s beads. Flash jewellery. St. Martins-le-Grand was at one time a noted place for sham jewellery.   6



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