Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To be of service to; aid.
  • transitive v. To be of use to; avail.
  • adj. Having been placed; located.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Placed (in a given situation); beset.
  • adj. Disposed mentally; affected.
  • adj. Provided; furnished.
  • v. To help, assist.
  • v. To profit; benefit; serve; avail.
  • v. To take the place of; replace.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To put in a certain situation or condition; to circumstance; to place.
  • transitive v. To put in peril; to beset.
  • transitive v. To serve; to assist; to profit; to avail.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To help; assist.
  • To profit; benefit; serve; avail.
  • To take the place of.
  • See bested.

Etymologies

Probably be- + stead, to help. Adj., from Middle English bistad, placed : bi-, be- + -stad (ultimately from Old Norse staddr, placed, past participle of stedhja, to stop, from stadhr, place; see stā- in Indo-European roots).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From be- +‎ stead (“to support, help”). (Wiktionary)
From be- +‎ stead (“place”). (Wiktionary)
From be- + Old Norse staddr ("placed"), later assimilated to Etymology 1, above. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Even that Englishman who knew Alfred, Bede, Caedmon, as well as he knew Plato, Caesar, Cicero, or Pericles, would be hard bestead were he asked about the great peoples from whom we sprang; the warring of Harold

    The Story of the Volsungs

  • Thou hast been friendly with me here when need was to me of friendliness; wherefore I say, I would I might see thee again, and thou better bestead than now thou art.

    The Water of the Wondrous Isles

  • And now this is the last word: here is a horn of oliphant which thou shalt wear about thy neck, Birdalone; and if thou be sore bestead, or thy heart faileth thee, blow in it, yet not before the onfall; and then, whether thou blow much or little, thou shalt be well holpen.

    The Water of the Wondrous Isles

  • Then he gave her a horn, drawing it from out of the basket of victual, which he now set down on the ground; and he said: If thou shouldst deem thee hard bestead, then wind this horn, and we shall know its voice up there and come to help thee.

    The Water of the Wondrous Isles

  • She said presently: Habundia, thou seest I am hard bestead; give me some good rede thereto.

    The Water of the Wondrous Isles

  • And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.

    Probably Just One Of Those Funny Coincidences

  • At once this knight seemed to throw aside his apathy, when he discovered the leader of his party so hard bestead; for, setting spurs to his horse, which was quite fresh, he came to his assistance like a thunderbolt, exclaiming, in a voice like a trumpet-call,

    Ivanhoe

  • Ha, ha, most noble knight, said Queen Guenever, I see well thou art hard bestead when thou ridest in a chariot.

    Le Morte d'Arthur: Sir Thomas Malory's book of King Arthur and of his noble knights of the Round table

  • My lord, said Sir Gareth, he made me a knight, and when I saw him so hard bestead, methought it was my worship to help him, for I saw him do so much, and so many noble knights against him; and when I understood that he was Sir Launcelot du Lake, I shamed to see so many knights against him alone.

    Le Morte d'Arthur: Sir Thomas Malory's book of King Arthur and of his noble knights of the Round table

  • Then was he sent for, and when Sir Lavaine saw Sir Launcelot, he said: My lord, I found well how ye were hard bestead, for I have found your horse that was slain with arrows.

    Le Morte d'Arthur: Sir Thomas Malory's book of King Arthur and of his noble knights of the Round table

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