- on the ocean.
- perplexed; uncertain: completely at sea as to how to answer the question.
- to set out on a voyage.
- to embark on a nautical career.
Origin of sea
- the seathe mass of salt water on the earth's surface as differentiated from the landRelated adjectives: marine, maritime, thalassic
- (as modifier)sea air
- one of the smaller areas of oceanthe Irish Sea
- a large inland area of waterthe Caspian Sea
- on the ocean
- in a state of confusion
Word Origin for sea
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).
Aboard a ship, on the ocean, as in Within a few hours the ship would be out at sea. During World War II a famous American newscaster addressed his radio broadcasts to listeners everywhere, including “all the ships at sea.” [1300s]
Also, all at sea. Perplexed, bewildered, as in She was all at sea in these new surroundings. This idiom transfers the condition of a vessel that has lost its bearings to the human mind. Charles Dickens used it in Little Dorrit (1855): “Mrs. Tickit ... was so plainly at sea on this part of the case.” [Second half of 1700s]
In addition to the idiom beginning with sea
- sea legs
- seal of approval
- seal off
- seal one's fate
- at sea
- between a rock and a hard place (devil and the deep blue sea)
- high seas
- not the only fish in the sea
- put out (to sea)