Example (Why Medieval Knights Were Just Bros on Horseback):

By the time the Normans and William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, they brought with them not only a mounted cavalry but also an emerging code of honor, one that preached restraint even to those one had bested on the battlefield — a sort of medieval Geneva Conventions.

As far as I know, the verb best actually means to outwit someone. What you really do on the battlefield is you fight and kill your enemy. It has nothing to do with outwitting someone. So, I'm not sure what the author is really saying there.

  • You could rephrase "had bested" with "got the best of" which might make more sense.
    – user3169
    Aug 31, 2015 at 4:57
  • 2
    As far as you know, the verb best means to outwit someone. Did you check any dictionaries? Collins says: to gain the advantage over or defeat. Wiktionary says: To beat in a contest; to surpass in skill or achievement.. While the verb can be used to say someone was bested mentally (i.e., outwitted), it is not limited to that usage.
    – J.R.
    Aug 31, 2015 at 18:45

1 Answer 1


"Best" generally means to outperform. To achieve a better result.

So, depending upon the context, it can mean to outwit or it can mean, as in this case, to defeat (on the battlefield).

In this case, it suggests that William the Conqueror showed mercy to those who surrendered to him in battle. Perhaps he captured them as prisoners of war instead of killing or slaughtering them. Or, perhaps (alternatively), he killed them swiftly to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering. Thusly, "displaying restraint."

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