see 1 (sē)
v. saw (sô), seen (sēn), see·ing, sees
a. To perceive with the eye: Do you see the hawk in the tree?
b. To detect by means analogous to use of the eye: The surveillance camera saw the intruders.
c. To attend or view as a spectator: saw a play.
d. To refer to or look at: Persons interested in the book's history should see page one of the preface.
a. To become aware of or apprehend: She saw from his expression that he did not want to go.
b. To find out or ascertain, often by moving: Please see who's knocking.
a. To take note of; recognize: She sees only the good aspects of the organization.
b. To consider to be; regard: Many see her as an inspiring figure.
a. To have a mental image of; visualize: They could still see their hometown as it once was.
b. To foresee or imagine: I see great things for that child.
a. To know through firsthand experience; undergo or experience: He saw service in the navy. She has seen many changes in her lifetime.
b. To be characterized by; be the time for: "The 1930s saw the development of sulfa drugs and penicillin" (Gregg Easterbrook).
c. To be subjected to; undergo: This word sees a lot of use in sports.
a. To visit, meet, or be in the company of: I saw all my aunts and uncles at the reunion.
b. To share the companionship of as a romantic partner: He's been seeing the same woman for eight years.
c. To visit for consultation: You ought to see your doctor more frequently.
d. To admit or receive, as for consultation or a social visit: The doctor will see you now.
a. To escort; attend: I'm seeing Amy home.
b. To make sure; take care: See that it gets done right away.
a. To meet (a bet) in card games.
b. To meet the bet of (another player).
a. To have the power to perceive with the eyes: Once I got glasses I could see much better.
b. To have the ability to detect or record visual information: This telescope sees far into space.
a. To understand; comprehend: As you can see, life in medieval Europe was difficult.
b. To consider: Let's see, which suitcase should we take?
a. To go and look: She had to see for herself and went into the garage.
b. To ascertain; find out: We probably can do it, but we'll have to see.
4. To have foresight: "No man can see to the end of time" (John F. Kennedy).
1. To attend to: We'll see about changing your dorm room later.
2. To inquire into; investigate: Could you see about hotels in the area?
To take care of: Please see after the children while I'm gone.
To take leave of (someone): saw the guests off at the door; went to the airport to see us off.
1. To escort (a guest) to the door: Will you please see Ms. Smith out?
2. To work on (a project) until completion: Despite poor funding, we saw the project out.
1. To understand the true character or nature of: We saw through his superficial charm.
2. To provide support or cooperation to (a person) throughout a period of time: We'll see you through until you finish college.
3. To work on (a project) until completion.
To attend to: See to the chores, will you?
see red Informal
To be extremely angry.
see the light
1. To understand or realize something after a period of ignorance or misunderstanding.
2. To undergo a religious awakening or conversion.
see you later
Informal Used to express goodbye.
[Middle English sen, from Old English sēon; see sekw-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: see1, behold, note, notice, remark, espy, descry, observe, contemplate, survey, view, perceive, discern
These verbs refer to being or becoming visually or mentally aware of something. See, the most general, can mean merely to use the faculty of sight but more often implies recognition, understanding, or appreciation: "If I have seen further (than ... Descartes) it is by standing upon the shoulders of Giants" (Isaac Newton).
Behold implies gazing at or looking intently upon what is seen: "My heart leaps up when I behold / A rainbow in the sky" (William Wordsworth).
Note, notice, and remark suggest close, detailed observation, and note in particular implies making a careful, systematic mental recording: Be careful to note that we turn left at the church. I notice that you're out of sorts. "I remarked a fresh colour in her cheeks, and a pinkness over her slender fingers" (Emily Brontë).
Espy and descry both stress acuteness of sight that permits the detection of something distant or not readily noticeable: "He drove off about five miles, speeding, before he espied a turnoff into a dirt road" (Flannery O'Connor). "the lighthouse, which can be descried from a distance" (Michael Strauss).
Observe emphasizes careful, closely directed attention: "I saw the pots ... and observed that they did not crack at all" (Daniel Defoe).
Contemplate implies looking attentively and thoughtfully: "It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants" (Charles Darwin).
Survey stresses comprehensive examination: "Strickland looked away and idly surveyed the ceiling" (W. Somerset Maugham).
View usually suggests examination with a particular purpose in mind or in a special way: The medical examiner viewed the victim's body.
Perceive and discern both imply not only visual recognition but also mental comprehension; perceive is especially associated with insight, and discern, with the ability to distinguish, discriminate, and make judgments: "I plainly perceive [that] some objections remain" (Edmund Burke). "Your sense of humor would discern the hollowness beneath all the pomp and ceremony" (Edna Ferber).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.