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From beset +‎ -ing



  1. present participle of beset


besetting (plural besettings)

  1. The act of one who besets or attacks.
    • 1689, John Bunyan, The Jerusalem-sinner saved, or, Good news for the vilest of men being a help for despairing souls, shewing that Jesus Christ would have mercy in the first place offered to the biggest sinners:
      I might also here tell you of the contests and battles that such are engaged in, wherein they find the besettings of Satan, above any other of the saints.


besetting (comparative more besetting, superlative most besetting)

  1. Deeply rooted; persistent.
    • 1902, William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Lectures 4 & 5:
      The first thing to bear in mind (especially if we ourselves belong to the clerico-academic-scientific type, the officially and conventionally “correct” type, “the deadly respectable” type, for which to ignore others is a besetting temptation) is that nothing can be more stupid than to bar out phenomena from our notice, merely because we are incapable of taking part in anything like them ourselves.
    • 1942, W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, Chapter 8:
      I did not then know the besetting sin of woman, the passion to discuss her private affairs with anyone who is willing to listen.
  2. Obsessive
    • 1859, Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Chapter 8:
      Neither were they connected with fear: he was conscious of no fear. Rather, they originated in a strange besetting desire to know what to do when the time came; a desire gigantically disproportionate to the few swift moments to which it referred; a wondering that was more like the wondering of some other spirit within his, than his own.