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verb (used with object), be·set, be·set·ting.
  1. to attack on all sides; assail; harass: to be beset by enemies; beset by difficulties.
  2. to surround; hem in: a village beset on all sides by dense forest.
  3. to set or place upon; bestud: a gold bracelet beset with jewels.
  4. Nautical. to surround (a vessel) by ice, so that control of the helm is lost.
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Origin of beset

before 1000; Middle English besetten, Old English besettan. See be-, set
Related formsbe·set·ment, nounbe·set·ter, nounpre·be·set, verb (used with object), pre·be·set, pre·be·set·ting.un·be·set, adjective

Synonyms for beset

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for beset

bedevil, perplex, besiege, beleaguer, surround, embarrass, invade, overrun, hassle, infest, encompass, ring, badger, aggress, nudge, nag, pester, attack, storm, strike

Examples from the Web for beset

Contemporary Examples of beset

Historical Examples of beset

  • They are putty in the hands of the fears and forces that beset them from without.

  • Touring it through the Causses seemed, indeed, beset with difficulties.

    The Roof of France

    Matilda Betham-Edwards

  • He was beset on either side by the merciless fangs of his erstwhile comrades.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • Such was his own experience that he was beset by the gravest doubts.

    The Law-Breakers

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • I have been so hunted and beset by this man, that I knew my only hope of safety lay in joining them.

    Barnaby Rudge

    Charles Dickens

British Dictionary definitions for beset


verb -sets, -setting or -set (tr)
  1. (esp of dangers, temptations, or difficulties) to trouble or harass constantly
  2. to surround or attack from all sides
  3. archaic to cover with, esp with jewels
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Derived Formsbesetter, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for beset


Old English besettan "to put, place; own, keep; occupy, settle; cover, surround with, besiege," from Proto-Germanic *bisatjan (cf. Old Saxon bisettjan, Dutch bezetten, Old High German bisezzan, German besetzen, Gothic bisatjan); see be- + set (v.). The figurative sense also was in Old English. Related: Beset (past tense); besetting.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper