best (adj.)

Old English beste, reduced by assimilation of -t- from earlier Old English betst "of the highest quality or standing, first, in the best manner." This originally was the superlative of bōt "remedy, reparation" (Middle English bote "advantage, help, profit"), a word now surviving in its simple form only in the expression to boot (see boot (n.2)). Its comparative, better, and superlative, best, have been transferred to good (and in some cases well).

Old English bōt is from Proto-Germanic root *bat-, with comparative *batizon and superlative *batistaz. The superlative form is the source also of Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Middle Dutch best, Old High German bezzist, German best, Old Norse beztr, Gothic batists. Also in Old English as an adverb, "in the most excellent manner."

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
     Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
     For promis'd joy!
[Burns, from "To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785"]

From late Old English as "of greatest advantage, most suitable." Best-seller as short for "best-selling book" is from 1889, 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.  

best (v.)

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

best (n.)

c. 1200, "that which is best," from best (adj.). From c. 1300 as "all that one can do;" 1570s as "highest possible state." From 1790 as "best clothes." At best "in the utmost degree" is from early 14c. For the best "tending to the best results" is from late 14c. To make the best of "use to best advantage" is from 1620s; to get or have the best of "the advantage over" (in a contest, etc.) is from 1640s. To be able to do something with the best of them is recorded by 1748.

updated on October 14, 2021

Definitions of best from WordNet
best (adv.)
in a most excellent way or manner;
he played best after a couple of martinis
best (adv.)
it would be sensible;
you'd best stay at home
best (adv.)
from a position of superiority or authority;
father knows best
Synonyms: better
best (n.)
the supreme effort one can make;
they did their best
best (n.)
the person who is most outstanding or excellent; someone who tops all others;
he could beat the best of them
Synonyms: topper
best (adj.)
(comparative and superlative of `well') wiser or more advantageous and hence advisable;
the White House thought it best not to respond
Synonyms: better
best (adj.)
(superlative of `good') having the most positive qualities;
the best film of the year
the best time for planting
the best solution
wore his best suit
best (v.)
get the better of;
the goal was to best the competition
Synonyms: outdo / outflank / trump / scoop
Best (n.)
Canadian physiologist (born in the United States) who assisted F. G. Banting in research leading to the discovery of insulin (1899-1978);
Synonyms: C. H. Best / Charles Herbert Best
Etymologies are not definitions. From, not affiliated with etymonline.