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half-seas over

[haf-seez, hahf-] /ˈhæfˌsiz, ˈhɑf-/
adjective, Slang.
drunk; intoxicated; inebriated.
Origin of half-seas over
First recorded in 1545-55


[see] /si/
the salt waters that cover the greater part of the earth's surface.
a division of these waters, of considerable extent, more or less definitely marked off by land boundaries:
the North Sea.
one of the seven seas; ocean.
a large lake or landlocked body of water.
the degree or amount of turbulence of the ocean or other body of water, as caused by the wind.
the waves.
a large wave:
The heavy seas almost drowned us.
a widely extended, copious, or overwhelming quantity:
a sea of faces; a sea of troubles.
the work, travel, and shipboard life of a sailor:
The sea is a hard life but a rewarding one.
Astronomy. mare3 .
of, relating to, or adapted for use at sea.
at sea,
  1. on the ocean.
  2. perplexed; uncertain:
    completely at sea as to how to answer the question.
Also, asea.
follow the sea, to pursue a nautical career:
Many boys then dreamed of following the sea.
go to sea,
  1. to set out on a voyage.
  2. to embark on a nautical career.
half seas over, Slang. partly or completely drunk:
They came home at dawn, looking half seas over.
put to sea, to embark on a sea voyage:
The expedition is nearly ready to put to sea.
Also, put out to sea.
before 900; Middle English see, Old English sǣ; cognate with Dutch zee, German See, Old Norse sær sea, Gothic saiws marsh
8. multitude, host, abundance, mass. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for half seas over
Historical Examples
  • That very night there was an alarm, and out we went to the front, half seas over!

    A Hero of Our Time M. Y. Lermontov
  • They never have 'three sheets in the wind,' even when they do get 'half seas over.'

    All Afloat

    William Wood
  • He noticed some of the men were half seas over and all were jolly.

  • The bully, half seas over, leaned forward and gripped his knife.

    Bucky O'Connor William MacLeod Raine
  • He's safe enough, I have fairly entered him, and he's more than half seas over already.

    The Beaux-Stratagem George Farquhar
  • Last night I was half seas over, and tolerably happy; this morning, I am high and dry, and intolerably miserable.

    Olla Podrida Frederick Marryat
  • It was only the Colonel, half seas over, who had his doubts, but the Colonel was notoriously psychic where women were concerned.

    The Co-Citizens Corra Harris
  • Sheridan, it has been told, delivered some of his most sparkling speeches when "half seas over."

    Fifteen Years in Hell Luther Benson
  • I understand that Willoughby was half seas over at the Sneerwell dinner.

    The New Pun Book

    Thomas A. Brown and Thomas Joseph Carey
  • Years ago it was a general practice to take the customer out and get him half seas over before trying to sell him.

    Dollars and Sense Col. Wm. C. Hunter
British Dictionary definitions for half seas over

half seas over

(Brit, informal) drunk


  1. the sea, the mass of salt water on the earth's surface as differentiated from the land related adjectives marine maritime thalassic
  2. (as modifier): sea air
(capital when part of place name)
  1. one of the smaller areas of ocean: the Irish Sea
  2. a large inland area of water: the Caspian Sea
turbulence or swell, esp of considerable size: heavy seas
(capital when part of a name) (astronomy) any of many huge dry plains on the surface of the moon See also mare2
anything resembling the sea in size or apparent limitlessness
the life or career of a sailor (esp in the phrase follow the sea)
at sea
  1. on the ocean
  2. in a state of confusion
go to sea, to become a sailor
put to sea, put out to sea, to embark on a sea voyage
Word Origin
Old English sǣ; related to Old Norse sǣr, Old Frisian sē, Gothic saiws, Old High German sēo
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for half seas over

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 "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 , usually "lake" but "sea" in phrases. German See is "sea" (fem.) or "lake" (masc.). The single Old English word 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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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half seas over in Science
  1. The continuous body of salt water that covers most of the Earth's surface.

  2. A region of water within an ocean and partly enclosed by land, such as the North Sea. See Note at ocean.

  3. A large body of either fresh or salt water that is completely enclosed by land, such as the Caspian Sea.

  4. Astronomy A mare.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for half seas over

half seas over

adjective phrase


[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]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with half seas over
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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