He noticed some of the men were half seas over and all were jolly.
That very night there was an alarm, and out we went to the front, half seas over!
It was only the Colonel, half seas over, who had his doubts, but the Colonel was notoriously psychic where women were concerned.
He's safe enough, I have fairly entered him, and he's more than half seas over already.
True, they were famous—when not half seas over—for keeping a quiet tongue in their mouths: with them mum was the word.
Last night I was half seas over, and tolerably happy; this morning, I am high and dry, and intolerably miserable.
"About half seas over; but he knows what he is about, though he took another heavy potion just now," replied the lieutenant.
Sheridan, it has been told, delivered some of his most sparkling speeches when "half seas over."
As usual, he was more than "half seas over," as he used to call intoxication when I sailed with him in the Great West.
I understand that Willoughby was half seas over at the Sneerwell dinner.
slang for "drunk," 1736, sometimes said to be from notion of a ship heavy-laden and so low in the water that small waves (half seas) wash over the deck. This suits the sense, but the phrase is not recorded in this alleged literal sense. Half seas over "halfway across the sea" is recorded from 1550s, however, and it was given a figurative extension to "halfway through a matter" by 1690s. What drunkenness is halfway to is not clear.
Old English sæ "sheet of water, sea, lake, pool," from Proto-Germanic *saiwaz (cf. Old Saxon seo, Old Frisian se, Middle Dutch see, Swedish sjö), of unknown origin, outside connections "wholly doubtful" [Buck]. Meaning "large quantity" (of anything) is from c.1200. Meaning "dark area of the moon's surface" is attested from 1660s (see mare (n.2)).
Germanic languages also use the general Indo-European word (represented by English mere (n.)), but have no firm distinction between "sea" and "lake," either by size, by inland or open, or by salt vs. fresh. This may reflect the Baltic geography where the languages are thought to have originated. The two words are used more or less interchangeably in Germanic, and exist in opposite senses (e.g. Gothic saiws "lake," marei "sea;" but Dutch zee "sea," meer "lake"). Cf. also Old Norse sær "sea," but Danish sø, usually "lake" but "sea" in phrases. German See is "sea" (fem.) or "lake" (masc.). The single Old English word sæ glosses Latin mare, aequor, pontus, pelagus, and marmor.
Phrase sea change "transformation" is attested from 1610, first in Shakespeare ("The Tempest," I.ii). Sea anemone is from 1742; sea legs is from 1712; sea level from 1806; sea urchin from 1590s. At sea in the figurative sense of "perplexed" is attested from 1768, from literal sense of "out of sight of land" (c.1300).
[1736+; fr the notion that one is like a ship low in the water and burdened so that relatively low waves, half seas, sweep over its deck]