Old English besettan "to put, place; own, keep; occupy, settle; cover, surround with, besiege," from Proto-Germanic *bisatjan (source also of Old Saxon bisettjan, Dutch bezetten, Old High German bisezzan, German besetzen, Gothic bisatjan); see be- + set (v.). The figurative sense "to press upon vigorously from all sides" also was in Old English. Related: Beset (past tense); besetting.
Entries linking to beset
word-forming element of verbs and nouns from verbs, with a wide range of meaning: "about, around; thoroughly, completely; to make, cause, seem; to provide with; at, on, to, for;" from Old English be- "about, around, on all sides" (the unstressed form of bi "by;" see by (prep.)). The form has remained by- in stressed positions and in some more modern formations (bylaw, bygones, bystander).
The Old English prefix also was used to make transitive verbs and as a privative prefix (as in behead). The sense "on all sides, all about" naturally grew to include intensive uses (as in bespatter "spatter about," therefore "spatter very much," besprinkle, etc.). Be- also can be causative, or have just about any sense required. The prefix was productive 16c.-17c. in forming useful words, many of which have not survived, such as bethwack "to thrash soundly" (1550s) and betongue "to assail in speech, to scold" (1630s).
Middle English setten, from Old English settan (transitive) "cause to sit; make or cause to rest as on a seat; cause to be put, placed, or seated;" also "put in a definite place," also "arrange, fix adjust; fix or appoint (a time) for some affair or transaction," and "cause (thoughts, affections) to dwell on."
This is from Proto-Germanic *(bi)satejanan "to cause to sit, set" (source also of Old Norse setja, Swedish sätta, Old Saxon settian, Old Frisian setta, Dutch zetten, German setzen, Gothic satjan), causative form of PIE *sod-, a variant of the root *sed- (1) "to sit." Also see set (n.2). It has been confused with sit (v.) at least since early 14c.
The intransitive sense of "be seated" is from c. 1200; that of "sink down, descend, decline toward and pass below the horizon" (of the sun, moon, or stars) is by mid-13c., perhaps from similar use of the cognates in Scandinavian languages; figurative use of this is from c. 1600.
Many uses are highly idiomatic, the verb, like put, its nearest equivalent, and do, make, get, etc., having become of almost universal application, and taking its distinctive color from the context. [Century Dictionary]
The sense of "make or cause to do, act, or be; start, bring (something) to a certain state" (on fire, in order, etc.) and that of "mount a gemstone" are attested by mid-13c. That of "determine upon, resolve" is from c. 1300; hence be set against "resisting" (mid-14c.).
The sense of "make a table ready for a meal" is from late 14c.; that of "regulate or adjust by a standard" (of a clock, etc.) is from late 14c. In printing, "to place (types) in the proper order for reading; put into type," 1520s. From c. 1500 as "put words to music." From 1570s as "put (a broken or dislocated bone) in position." In cookery, plastering, etc., "become firm or solid in consistency" by 1736.
To set (one's) heart on (something) is from c. 1300 as "love, be devoted to;" c. 1400 as "have a desire for." To set (one's) mind is from mid-15c.; transitive set (one's mind) to "determine to accomplish" is from late 15c. To set (something) on "incite to attack" (c. 1300) originally was in reference to hounds and game. To set an example is mid-14c. (set (v.) in the sense of "present" is from late Old English). The notion of "fix the value of" is behind old phrases such as set at naught "regard as nothing."
To set out is from c. 1300 as "display (for sale);" to set up shop "commence doing business" is from c. 1400.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to sit."
It forms all or part of: assess; assiduous; assiento; assize; banshee; beset; cathedra; cathedral; chair; cosset; dissident; dodecahedron; Eisteddfod; ephedra; ephedrine; ersatz; icosahedron; inset; insidious; nest; niche; nick (n.) "notch, groove, slit;" nidicolous; nidification; nidus; obsess; octahedron; piezo-; piezoelectric; polyhedron; possess; preside; reside; saddle; sanhedrim; seance; seat; sedan; sedate; (adj.) "calm, quiet;" sedative; sedentary; sederunt; sediment; see (n.) "throne of a bishop, archbishop, or pope;" sessile; session; set (v.); sett; settle (n.); settle (v.); siege; sit; sitz-bath; sitzkrieg; size; soil (n.1) "earth, dirt;" Somerset; soot; subside; subsidy; supersede; surcease; tanist; tetrahedron; Upanishad.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit a-sadat "sat down," sidati "sits," nidah "resting place, nest;" Old Persian hadis "abode;" Greek ezesthai "to sit," hedra "seat, chair, face of a geometric solid;" Latin sedere "to sit; occupy an official seat, preside; sit still, remain; be fixed or settled," nidus "nest;" Old Irish suide "seat, sitting," net "nest;" Welsh sedd "seat," eistedd "sitting," nyth "nest;" Old Church Slavonic sežda, sedeti "to sit," sedlo "saddle," gnezdo "nest;" Lithuanian sėdėti "to sit;" Russian sad "garden," Lithuanian sodinti "to plant;" Gothic sitan, Old English sittan "to sit."
updated on May 21, 2017