At best

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.
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.
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,

to gain the advantage over.
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.
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

to do one’s utmost to make progress
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

in the most favourable interpretation
under the most favourable conditions

for the best

for an ultimately good outcome
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
Charles Herbert. 1899–1978, Canadian physiologist: associated with Banting and Macleod in their discovery of insulin in 1922
George. 1946–2005, Northern Ireland footballer

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.).

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

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

Related Terms

someone’s level best
Under the most favorable circumstances, as in At best we’ll be just one week behind schedule, or Cleaning out the attic is a tedious job at best. This idiom, formerly also put as at the best, today is most often used in situations that are actually far from ideal, as in the examples above. [ First half of 1300s ]
For an antonym, see at worst

best bib and tucker
best of both worlds, the
best part of something
best shot

also see:

all for the best
all the best
as best one can
at best
at one’s best
come off (second-best)
do one’s best
get the better (best) of
give it one’s best shot
had better (best)
make the best of it
on one’s best behavior
put one’s best foot forward
second best
Sunday best
in one’s (best) interest
to the best of one’s ability
with the best of them
with the best will in the world

also see under:


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