constantly assailing or obsessing, as with temptation:
a besetting sin.
to attack on all sides; assail; harass:
to be beset by enemies; beset by difficulties.
to surround; hem in:
a village beset on all sides by dense forest.
to set or place upon; bestud:
a gold bracelet beset with jewels.
Nautical. to surround (a vessel) by ice, so that control of the helm is lost.
Contemporary Examples

The besetting problem I have with it to this day, is do people want to know this?
Daphne Merkin on Lena Dunham, Book Criticism, and Self-Examination Mindy Farabee December 25, 2014

Historical Examples

In the besetting fear that he was leaving Di to face something alone, Bobby had arrived.
Miss Lulu Bett Zona Gale

This “rejoicing in iniquity” is the besetting sin of idle people.
Practical Ethics William DeWitt Hyde

Now Beatrice, well as she knew Dante’s propensity to love, knew as well that pride was even more of a besetting weakness of his.
A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1 George Saintsbury

The besetting temptation of the free lance is to pamper himself.
If You Don’t Write Fiction Charles Phelps Cushing

How well Miss Preston was aware of their besetting sins, and how shrewdly did she use them to their undoing.
Caps and Capers Gabrielle E. Jackson

But his besetting sin was strong drink, and he had recently been drunk.
A Circuit Rider’s Wife Corra Harris

As if I did not know that curiosity is my besetting sin, without being reminded of it in that brutal way!
A Lady of Rome F. Marion Crawford

He even had a besetting sin, and that besetting sin was pride.
The Willoughby Captains Talbot Baines Reed

Alcala had been brought up in aristocratic seclusiveness, and his besetting sin was pride.
The Spanish Cavalier Charlotte Maria Tucker

tempting, harassing, or assailing (esp in the phrase besetting sin)
verb (transitive) -sets, -setting, -set
(esp of dangers, temptations, or difficulties) to trouble or harass constantly
to surround or attack from all sides
(archaic) to cover with, esp with jewels

Old English besettan “to put, place; own, keep; occupy, settle; cover, surround with, besiege,” from Proto-Germanic *bisatjan (cf. Old Saxon bisettjan, Dutch bezetten, Old High German bisezzan, German besetzen, Gothic bisatjan); see be- + set (v.). The figurative sense also was in Old English. Related: Beset (past tense); besetting.


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