Middle English sēd, from Old English sēd (Anglian), sæd (West Saxon), "that which may be sown; an individual grain of seed," from Proto-Germanic *sediz "seed" (source also of Old Norse sað, Old Saxon sad, Old Frisian sed, Middle Dutch saet, Old High German sat, German Saat). This is reconstructed to be from PIE *se-ti- "sowing," from root *sē- "to sow."
Figurative sense of "offspring, progeny, posterity," now rare or archaic except in biblical use, was in Old English; the figurative meaning "that from which anything springs, latent beginning" is by late Old English. From late 14c. as "act or time of sowing." The meaning "semen, male fecundating fluid," also now archaic or biblical, is from c. 1300. For the sporting sense (by 1924), see seed (v.).
late 14c., sēden, "to flower, flourish; produce seed;" mid-15c., "to sow (the ground) with seed," from seed (n.).
The meaning "remove the seeds from" is by 1904. Sporting (originally tennis) sense is by 1898, from the notion of "spreading" certain players' names so as to ensure they will not meet early in a tournament. The noun in this sense is attested by 1924.
There is another question of tennis custom, if not tennis law, that has been agitated a good deal of late, and which still remains unsatisfactory, and this is the methods used in drawing the competitors in tournaments. The National Lawn Tennis Association prescribes no particular style for drawing. but the Bagnall-Wilde system is that used almost universally in open events. Several years ago, it was decided to "seed" the best players through the championship draw, and this was done for two or three years under protest from Dr. Dwight. ["Tennis Rules That Need Amendment," American Lawn Tennis, Jan. 13, 1898]
Related: Seeded; seeding. Late Old English had sædian, sedian.
updated on April 12, 2022