Dead Set

He made a dead set at her. A pointed or decided determination to bring matters to a crisis. The allusion is to a setter dog that has discovered game, and makes a dead set at it.

To be at a dead set
is to be set fast, so as not to be able to move. The allusion is to machinery. To make a dead set upon someone is to attack him resolutely, to set upon him; the allusion being to dogs, bulls, etc., set on each other to fight.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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