Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.

WORD ORIGIN

present plural indicative of be (q.v.), from Old English earun (Mercian), aron (Northumbrian). Also from Old Norse cognates. In 17c., began to replace be, ben as first person plural present indicative in standard English. The only non-dialectal survival of be in this sense is the powers that be. But in southwest England, we be (in Devonshire us be) remains non-standard idiom as a contradictory positive ("You people aren't speaking correct English." "Oh, yes we be!").