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[best] /bɛst/
adjective, superl. of good with better as compar.
of the highest quality, excellence, or standing:
the best work; the best students.
most advantageous, suitable, or desirable:
the best way.
largest; most:
the best part of a day.
adverb, superl. of well with better as compar.
most excellently or suitably; with most advantage or success:
an opera role that best suits her voice.
in or to the highest degree; most fully (usually used in combination):
best-suited; best-known; best-loved.
something or someone that is best:
They always demand and get the best. The best of us can make mistakes.
a person's finest clothing:
It's important that you wear your best.
a person's most agreeable or desirable emotional state (often preceded by at).
a person's highest degree of competence, inspiration, etc. (often preceded by at).
the highest quality to be found in a given activity or category of things (often preceded by at):
cabinetmaking at its best.
the best effort that a person, group, or thing can make:
Their best fell far short of excellence.
a person's best wishes or kindest regards:
Please give my best to your father.
verb (used with object)
to get the better of; defeat; beat:
He easily bested his opponent in hand-to-hand combat. She bested me in the argument.
all for the best, for the good as the final result; to an ultimate advantage:
At the time it was hard to realize how it could be all for the best.
Also, for the best.
as best one can, in the best way possible under the circumstances:
We tried to smooth over the disagreement as best we could.
at best, under the most favorable circumstances:
You may expect to be treated civilly, at best.
get / have the best of,
  1. to gain the advantage over.
  2. to defeat; subdue:
    His arthritis gets the best of him from time to time.
had best, would be wisest or most reasonable to; ought to:
You had best phone your mother to tell her where you are going.
make the best of, to cope with in the best way possible:
to make the best of a bad situation.
with the best, on a par with the most capable:
He can play bridge with the best.
Origin of best
before 900; Middle English beste, Old English betst, best; cognate with Dutch best, Old High German bezzist (German best), Old Norse bezt, Gothic batists. See better1, -est1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for besting
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The keen, little old man was besting and flurrying him; he was no match for this irascible invalid.

    The Scarlet Feather Houghton Townley
  • besting here, and thinking, with my face between my hands, I wondered what would be the end.

    Erema R. D. Blackmore
  • besting one night, we proceeded to Lyons by train next day, and were once more in France.

    Wintering in the Riviera William Miller
  • I must think the matter over, and try to hit upon some plan of ‘besting’ them, as you English say.

  • besting at the top of the cross is a bird, like a game cock, ornamented by a necklace.

  • Having spent their lives hitherto in "besting" every one on a small scale, they are now besting the British nation on the large.

    Ladysmith H. W. Nevinson
  • These damned black devils have bested me, just as I reckoned I was besting them.

    'Tween Snow and Fire Bertram Mitford
British Dictionary definitions for besting


the superlative of good
most excellent of a particular group, category, etc
most suitable, advantageous, desirable, attractive, etc
the best part of, most of: the best part of an hour
put one's best foot forward
  1. to do one's utmost to make progress
  2. to hurry
the superlative of well1
in a manner surpassing all others; most excellently, advantageously, attractively, etc
(in combination) in or to the greatest degree or extent; most: the best-loved hero
as best one can, as best one may, as effectively as possible within one's limitations
had best, would be wise, sensible, etc, to: you had best go now
the best, the most outstanding or excellent person, thing, or group in a category
(often preceded by at) the most excellent, pleasing, or skilled quality or condition: journalism at its best
the most effective effort of which a person or group is capable: even their best was inadequate
a winning majority: the best of three games
Also all the best. best wishes: she sent him her best
a person's smartest outfit of clothing
at best
  1. in the most favourable interpretation
  2. under the most favourable conditions
for the best
  1. for an ultimately good outcome
  2. with good intentions: he meant it for the best
get the best of, have the best of, to surpass, defeat, or outwit; better
give someone the best, to concede someone's superiority
make the best of, to cope as well as possible in the unfavourable circumstances of (often in the phrases make the best of a bad job, make the best of it)
(informal) six of the best, six strokes with a cane on the buttocks or hand
(transitive) to gain the advantage over or defeat
Word Origin
Old English betst; related to Gothic batista, Old High German bezzist


Charles Herbert. 1899–1978, Canadian physiologist: associated with Banting and Macleod in their discovery of insulin in 1922
George. 1946–2005, Northern Ireland footballer
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
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Word Origin and History for besting



Old English beste, reduced by assimilation of -t- from earlier Old English betst "best, first, in the best manner," originally superlative of bot "remedy, reparation," the root word now only surviving in to boot (see boot (n.2)), though its comparative, better, and superlative, best, have been transferred to good (and in some cases well). From Proto-Germanic root *bat-, with comparative *batizon and superlative *batistaz (cf. Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Middle Dutch best, Old High German bezzist, German best, Old Norse beztr, Gothic batists).

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Best-seller as short for "best-selling book" is from 1902, apparently originally in the publishing trade; best friend was in Chaucer (late 14c.). Best girl is first attested 1881, American English; best man is 1814, originally Scottish, replacing groomsman. To be able to do something with the best of them is recorded by 1748.


"to get the better of," 1863, from best (adj.). Related: Bested; besting.


c.1200, from best (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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besting in Medicine

Best (běst), Charles Herbert. 1899-1978.

American-born Canadian physiologist noted for the discovery and successful clinical application of insulin.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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besting in Science
American-born Canadian physiologist who assisted Frederick Banting in the discovery of the hormone insulin. In acknowledgment of his work, Banting shared his portion of the 1923 Nobel Prize with Best. In addition to further refining the use of insulin, Best later discovered the vitamin choline and the enzyme histaminase, which breaks down histamine.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for besting


Related Terms

someone's level best

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with besting
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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