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[sahyt] /saɪt/
the power or faculty of seeing; perception of objects by use of the eyes; vision.
an act, fact, or instance of seeing.
one's range of vision on some specific occasion:
Land is in sight.
a view; glimpse.
mental perception or regard; judgment.
something seen or worth seeing; spectacle:
the sights of London.
Informal. something unusual, surprising, shocking, or distressing:
They were a sight after the fight.
  1. presentation of a bill of exchange:
    a draft payable at two months after sight.
  2. a showing of goods, especially gems, held periodically for wholesalers.
Older Use. a multitude; great deal:
It's a sight better to work than to starve.
an observation taken with a surveying, navigating, or other instrument to ascertain an exact position or direction.
any of various mechanical or optical viewing devices, as on a firearm or surveying instrument, for aiding the eye in aiming.
Obsolete. skill; insight.
verb (used with object)
to see, glimpse, notice, or observe:
to sight a ship to the north.
to take a sight or observation of (a stake, coastline, etc.), especially with surveying or navigating instruments.
to direct or aim by a sight or sights, as a firearm.
to provide with sights or adjust the sights of, as a gun.
verb (used without object)
to aim or observe through a sight.
to look carefully in a certain direction.
at first sight, at the first glimpse; at once:
It was love at first sight.
at sight,
  1. immediately upon seeing, especially without referring elsewhere for assurance, further information, etc.:
    to translate something at sight.
  2. Commerce. on presentation:
    a draft payable at sight.
catch sight of, to get a glimpse of; espy:
We caught sight of the lake below.
know by sight, to recognize (a person or thing) seen previously:
I know him by sight, but I know nothing about him.
not by a long sight, Informal. definitely not:
Is that all? Not by a long sight.
on / upon sight, immediately upon seeing:
to shoot him on sight; to recognize someone on sight.
out of sight,
  1. beyond one's range of vision.
  2. Informal. beyond reason; exceedingly high:
    The price is out of sight.
  3. Slang. (often used as an interjection) fantastic; marvelous: a ceremony so glamorous it was out of sight.
    Oh wow! Out of sight!
sight for sore eyes, someone or something whose appearance on the scene is cause for relief or gladness.
sight unseen, without previous examination:
to buy something sight unseen.
Origin of sight
before 950; Middle English (noun); Old English sihth (more often gesihth, gesiht; cognate with German Gesicht face; cf. y-), derivative of sēon to see1; see -th1
Related forms
sightable, adjective
sighter, noun
resight, verb (used with object)
undersight, noun
Can be confused
cite, sight, site. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for sight unseen
Historical Examples
  • I'll bet I can even put in some improvements for you, sight unseen.

    The Ethical Engineer Henry Maxwell Dempsey
  • He'll have ter trade her off 'sight unseen' if he ever gits rid of her.

    Janice Day Helen Beecher Long
  • Youre not going to take us in sight unseen, in this way, are you?

  • He's picked on you sight unseen, and he's going to do something for you.

    Cappy Ricks Peter B. Kyne
  • An era of extravagance is on and "sight unseen" investments are made.

  • sight unseen, he stands ready to trade two cathedrals and a royal palace for a union depot.

    Europe Revised Irvin S. Cobb
  • Mr. Thaddler instantly conceived a liking for the young person, "sight unseen."

    What Diantha Did Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • It was not likely that this ship was the one he'd pursued, sight unseen, since the end of the fight off Meriden.

    Talents, Incorporated William Fitzgerald Jenkins
  • If they were able to pay four dollars for me, sight unseen, they are sufficiently affluent to buy their own eggs.

    The Abandoned Farmers Irvin S. Cobb
  • Some one who accepts you sight unseen, as she would any man who spoke and acted courteously?

    The Hidden Places Bertrand W. Sinclair
British Dictionary definitions for sight unseen


the power or faculty of seeing; perception by the eyes; vision related adjectives optical visual
the act or an instance of seeing
the range of vision: within sight of land
range of mental vision; point of view; judgment: in his sight she could do nothing wrong
a glimpse or view (esp in the phrases catch sight of, lose sight of)
anything that is seen
(often pl) anything worth seeing; spectacle: the sights of London
(informal) anything unpleasant or undesirable to see: his room was a sight!
any of various devices or instruments used to assist the eye in making alignments or directional observations, esp such a device used in aiming a gun
an observation or alignment made with such a device
an opportunity for observation
(obsolete) insight or skill
(informal) a sight, a great deal: she's a sight too good for him
a sight for sore eyes, a person or thing that one is pleased or relieved to see
at sight, on sight
  1. as soon as seen
  2. on presentation: a bill payable at sight
know by sight, to be familiar with the appearance of without having personal acquaintance: I know Mr Brown by sight but we have never spoken
(informal) not by a long sight, on no account; not at all
out of sight
  1. (slang) not visible
  2. extreme or very unusual
  3. (as interj.): that's marvellous!
set one's sights on, to have (a specified goal) in mind; aim for
sight unseen, without having seen the object at issue: to buy a car sight unseen
(transitive) to see, view, or glimpse
  1. to furnish with a sight or sights
  2. to adjust the sight of
to aim (a firearm) using the sight
Derived Forms
sightable, adjective
Word Origin
Old English sihth; related to Old High German siht; see see1
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 sight unseen



Old English sihð, gesiht, gesihð "thing seen; faculty of sight; aspect; vision; apparition," from Proto-Germanic *sekh(w)- (cf. Danish sigte, Swedish sigt, Middle Dutch sicht, Dutch zicht, Old High German siht, German Sicht, Gesicht), stem that also yielded Old English seon (see see (v.)), with noun suffix -th (2), later -t.

Verily, truth is sight. Therefore if two people should come disputing, saying, 'I have seen,' 'I have heard,' we should trust the one who says 'I have seen.' [Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 5.14.4]
Meaning "perception or apprehension by means of the eyes" is from early 13c. Meaning "device on a firearm to assist in aiming" is from 1580s. A "show" of something, hence, colloquially, "a great many; a lot" (late 14c.). Sight for sore eyes "welcome visitor" is attested from 1738; sight unseen "without previous inspection" is from 1892. Sight gag first attested 1944. Middle English had sighty (late 14c.) "visible, conspicuous; bright, shining; attractive, handsome;" c.1400 as "keen-sighted;" mid-15c. as "discerning" (cf. German sichtig "visible").



1550s, "look at, view, inspect," from sight (n.). From c.1600 as "get sight of," 1842 as "take aim along the sight of a firearm." Related: Sighted; sighting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sight unseen in Medicine

sight (sīt)

  1. The ability to see.

  2. Field of vision.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Idioms and Phrases with sight unseen

sight unseen

Without having viewed the object in question, as in He bought the horse sight unseen. This seeming oxymoron—how can a sight, which means something seen, be not seen?—dates from the late 1800s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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