see (v.)

Middle English sēn, from Old English seon (Anglian sean) "be or become aware of by means of the eye; look, behold;" also "perceive mentally, understand; experience; visit (a place); inspect" (contracted class V strong verb; past tense seah, past participle sewen), from Proto-Germanic *sehwanan (source also of Old Saxon, Old High German sehan, Middle High German, German sehen, Old Frisian sia, Middle Dutch sien, Old Norse sja, Gothic saihwan).

This is reconstructed to be from PIE root *sekw- (2) "to see." That PIE root often was said to be probably identical with *sekw- (1) "to follow," which produced words for "say" in Greek and Latin, and also words for "follow" (such as Latin sequor), but "opinions differ in regard to the semantic starting-point and sequences" [Buck]. Thus see might mean, etymologically, "follow with the eyes" (and in some languages extending to "speak, say, tell"). But OED finds this "involves a hypothetical sense-development which it is not easy to accept with confidence," and Boutkan also doubts the connection and gives the word "No certain PIE etymology." 

It is attested by late Old English as "be able to see with the eyes, have the faculty of sight, not be blind."

As the sense of sight affords far more complete and definite information respecting external objects than any other of the senses, mental perceptions are in many (perh. in all) languages referred to in visual terms, and often with little or no consciousness of metaphor. [OED]

English see has been used in many of these senses since early Middle English: "foresee; behold in the imagination or in a dream," also "to recognize the force of (a demonstration)," all c. 1200.

It is attested by c. 1300 as "ensure, make sure" (something is so, someone does something). To see to is by late 14c. as "be attentive to, take special care about" (also "to look at"); hence "attend to, arrange for, bring about as a result." See to it "take special care; see that it be done" is from late 15c.

The sense of "escort" (as in see you home) is attested c. 1600 in Shakespeare. The meaning "to receive as a visitor" is attested from c. 1500. The wagering sense of "equal a bet, accept by staking a similar sum" is by 1590s. Used in phrases expressing comparative and superlative (best I've ever seen) from early 14c.

Imperative use of see! "look! behold!" is by early 14c. Emphatic expression see here is attested from early 15c.; probably the notion is "see, here is ...;" but the modern use of it as "a brusque form of address used to preface an order," etc. [OED] is by 1897 in schoolboy talk. The qualifying expression as far as I can see is attested from 1560s.

Let me see as a statement expressing consideration when the speaker is trying to recall something is recorded from 1510s. See you as a casual farewell is attested by 1891 (see you soon; probably short for hope to see you soon). To see something in (someone, etc.) "perceive good or attractive qualities in" is by 1832.

see (n.)

c. 1300, "throne of a bishop, archbishop, or pope," also "throne of a monarch, a goddess, the Antichrist, etc.," from Old French sie "seat, throne; town, capital; episcopal see," from Latin sedem (nominative sedes) "seat, throne, abode, temple," related to sedere "to sit" (from PIE root *sed- (1) "to sit").

Attested by early 14c. as "administrative center of a bishopric;" c. 1400 as "province under the jurisdiction of a bishop." In Middle English also sometimes simply "place to sit, a chair" (late 14c.).

It differs from diocese, however, in that diocese represents the territorial province for the care of which the bishop is responsible (that is, where his duties lie), whereas see is the local seat of his authority, dignity, and episcopal privileges. [Century Dictionary]

updated on April 08, 2022

Definitions of see from WordNet
see (v.)
perceive by sight or have the power to perceive by sight;
Can you see the bird in that tree?
You have to be a good observer to see all the details
He is blind--he cannot see
see (v.)
perceive (an idea or situation) mentally;
Now I see!
I just can't see your point
Synonyms: understand / realize / realise
see (v.)
perceive or be contemporaneous with;
I want to see results
The 1960's saw the rebellion of the younger generation against established traditions
You'll see a lot of cheating in this school
Synonyms: witness / find
see (v.)
imagine; conceive of; see in one's mind;
I can see a risk in this strategy
I can't see him on horseback!
I can see what will happen
see (v.)
deem to be;
I don't see the situation quite as negatively as you do
Synonyms: consider / reckon / view / regard
see (v.)
get to know or become aware of, usually accidentally;
I see that you have been promoted
Synonyms: learn / hear / get word / get wind / pick up / find out / get a line / discover
see (v.)
see or watch;
This program will be seen all over the world
see a movie
Synonyms: watch / view / catch / take in
see (v.)
come together;
How nice to see you again!
I'll probably see you at the meeting
Synonyms: meet / run into / encounter / run across / come across
see (v.)
find out, learn, or determine with certainty, usually by making an inquiry or other effort;
I want to see whether she speaks French
Synonyms: determine / check / find out / ascertain / watch / learn
see (v.)
be careful or certain to do something; make certain of something;
Synonyms: check / insure / see to it / ensure / control / ascertain / assure
see (v.)
go to see for professional or business reasons;
You should see a lawyer
We had to see a psychiatrist
see (v.)
go to see for a social visit;
I went to see my friend Mary the other day
see (v.)
go to see a place, as for entertainment;
We went to see the Eiffel Tower in the morning
Synonyms: visit
see (v.)
take charge of or deal with;
Could you see about lunch?
Synonyms: attend / take care / look
see (v.)
receive as a specified guest;
The minister doesn't see anybody before noon
the doctor will see you now
see (v.)
date regularly; have a steady relationship with;
Did you know that she is seeing an older man?
Synonyms: go steady / go out / date
see (v.)
see and understand, have a good eye;
The artist must first learn to see
see (v.)
deliberate or decide;
let's see--which movie should we see tonight?
see (v.)
observe as if with an eye;
The camera saw the burglary and recorded it
see (v.)
observe, check out, and look over carefully or inspect;
I must see your passport before you can enter the country
Synonyms: examine
see (v.)
undergo or live through a difficult experience;
he saw action in Viet Nam
Synonyms: experience / go through
see (v.)
accompany or escort;
I'll see you to the door
Synonyms: escort
see (v.)
match or meet;
I saw the bet of one of my fellow players
see (v.)
make sense of; assign a meaning to;
What message do you see in this letter?
Synonyms: interpret / construe
see (n.)
the seat within a bishop's diocese where his cathedral is located;
From, not affiliated with etymonline.