From Middle English besetten, bisetten, from Old English besettan (“to beset; set beside; set near; appoint; place; own; possess”), from Proto-Germanic *bisatjaną (“to set near; set around”), equivalent to be- + set. Cognate with Saterland Frisian besätte (“to occupy”), West Frisian besette (“to occupy”), Dutch bezetten (“to sit in; occupy; fill”), German Low German besetten (“to occupy”), German besetzen (“to seize; occupy; garrison”), Danish besætte (“to occupy”), Swedish besätta (“to fill; occupy; beset”).
- (transitive) To surround or hem in.
- (transitive) To attack, especially from all sides.
1749, Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, London: A[ndrew] Millar, OCLC 928184292:
- “Nay, for matter o’ that, he never doth any mischief,” said the woman; “but to be sure it is necessary he should keep some arms for his own safety; for his house hath been beset more than once; and it is not many nights ago that we thought we heard thieves about it […]
- (transitive) To decorate something with jewels etc.
- (nautical) Of a ship, to get trapped by ice.
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