Etymology
Advertisement

seal (n.1)

"design stamped on wax," especially an impressed figure attached to a document as evidence of authenticity, c. 1200, sel, sele, from Old French seel, seal "seal on a letter" (Modern French sceau), from Vulgar Latin *sigellum (source of Italian suggello, Spanish sello; also Old Frisian and Middle High German sigel, German Siegel), from Latin sigillum "small picture, engraved figure, seal," diminutive of signum "identifying mark, sign" (see sign (n.)).

An earlier borrowing directly from Latin is represented by Old English insigel. The use for "engraved device of some hard material used for imprinting a seal" (technically a matrix) is by c. 1300. Extended senses are via the notion of a seal used to mark and close a document to insure its secrecy (c. 1300). The meaning "an identifying mark" is from mid-14c.; especially one confirming goods and measures as conforming to standard. The technical sense of "what prevents the escape of a gas or liquid" is by 1853.

seal (n.2)

"fish-eating marine mammal with flippers; any pinniped not a walrus," Middle English sele, from Old English seolh "seal," from Proto-Germanic *selkhaz (compare Old Norse selr, Swedish sjöl, Danish sæl, Middle Low German sel, Middle Dutch seel, Old High German selah), a word of unknown origin, perhaps a borrowing from Finnic.

Seal point "dark brown marking on a Siamese cat" is recorded from 1934, from the resemblance to the color of seal fur; compare seal brown "rich, dark brown color," which is attested by 1875. Old English seolhbæð, literally "seal's bath," was an Anglo-Saxon kenning for "the sea."

seal (v.)

c. 1200, selen, "to fasten (a letter, etc.) with or as with a seal, close up with a seal, press a seal on wax," also "place a seal on (a document)," also figurative, "to join together," from seal (n.1) or else from Old French seeler, sealer.

Hence "to conclude, ratify, render official or binding" by affixing seals to it (late 15c.). In reference to jars or other containers, "to close up with wax, lead, cement, etc.," attested from 1660s, from the notion of wax seals on envelopes. In reference to the actions of wood-coatings, "render impervious," by 1940. Related: Sealed; sealing.

Sealing-wax, "soft substance prepared for receiving the impression of a seal," is attested from c. 1300. To seal (one's) lips "be silent" is by 1782. To seal (one's) fate (1799) "decide irrevocably" perhaps reflects the notion of a seal on a warrant of execution.

updated on March 15, 2022

Advertisement
Advertisement
Definitions of seal from WordNet
1
seal (n.)
fastener consisting of a resinous composition that is plastic when warm; used for sealing documents and parcels and letters;
Synonyms: sealing wax
seal (n.)
a device incised to make an impression; used to secure a closing or to authenticate documents;
Synonyms: stamp
seal (n.)
the pelt or fur (especially the underfur) of a seal;
a coat of seal
Synonyms: sealskin
seal (n.)
a member of a Naval Special Warfare unit who is trained for unconventional warfare;
Synonyms: Navy SEAL
seal (n.)
a stamp affixed to a document (as to attest to its authenticity or to seal it);
the warrant bore the sheriff's seal
seal (n.)
an indication of approved or superior status;
Synonyms: cachet / seal of approval
seal (n.)
a finishing coat applied to exclude moisture;
seal (n.)
fastener that provides a tight and perfect closure;
seal (n.)
any of numerous marine mammals that come on shore to breed; chiefly of cold regions;
2
seal (v.)
make tight; secure against leakage;
seal the windows
Synonyms: seal off
seal (v.)
close with or as if with a seal;
She sealed the letter with hot wax
seal (v.)
decide irrevocably;
sealing dooms
seal (v.)
affix a seal to;
seal the letter
seal (v.)
cover with varnish;
Synonyms: varnish
seal (v.)
hunt seals;
From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.