that is to say. that(def 16).

Origin of say

before 900; Middle English seyen, seggen, Old English secgan; cognate with Dutch zeggen, German sagen, Old Norse segja; akin to saw3
Related formssay·er, noun



verb (used with object), noun British Dialect.

Origin of say

1350–1400; Middle English sayen, aphetic variant of assayen to assay




a thin silk or woolen fabric similar to serge, much used in the 16th century.

Origin of say

1250–1300; Middle English < Old French saie < Latin saga, plural of sagum woolen cloak, said to be < Gaulish




Jean Bap·tiste [zhahn ba-teest] /ʒɑ̃ baˈtist/, 1767–1832, French economist.Compare Say's law.
Thomas,1787–1834, U.S. entomologist. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for say



verb says (sɛz), saying or said (mainly tr)

to speak, pronounce, or utter
(also intr) to express (an idea) in words; tellwe asked his opinion but he refused to say
(also intr; may take a clause as object) to state (an opinion, fact, etc) positively; declare; affirm
to reciteto say grace
(may take a clause as object) to report or allegethey say we shall have rain today
(may take a clause as object) to take as an assumption; supposelet us say that he is lying
(may take a clause as object) to convey by means of artistic expressionthe artist in this painting is saying that we should look for hope
to make a case forthere is much to be said for either course of action
(usually passive) Irish to persuade or coax (someone) to do somethingIf I hadn't been said by her, I wouldn't be in this fix
go without saying to be so obvious as to need no explanation
I say! mainly British informal an exclamation of surprise
not to say even; and indeed
that is to say in other words; more explicitly
to say nothing of as well as; even disregardinghe was warmly dressed in a shirt and heavy jumper, to say nothing of a thick overcoat
to say the least without the slightest exaggeration; at the very least


approximatelythere were, say, 20 people present
for examplechoose a number, say, four


the right or chance to speaklet him have his say
authority, esp to influence a decisionhe has a lot of say in the company's policy
a statement of opinionyou've had your say, now let me have mine


US and Canadian informal an exclamation to attract attention or express surprise, etc
Derived Formssayer, noun

Word Origin for say

Old English secgan; related to Old Norse segja, Old Saxon seggian, Old High German sagēn




archaic a type of fine woollen fabric

Word Origin for say

C13: from Old French saie, from Latin saga, plural of sagum a type of woollen cloak
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

Word Origin and History for say

Old English secgan "to utter, inform, speak, tell, relate," from Proto-Germanic *sagjanan (cf. Old Saxon seggian, Old Norse segja, Danish sige, Old Frisian sedsa, Middle Dutch segghen, Dutch zeggen, Old High German sagen, German sagen "to say"), from PIE *sokwyo-, from root *sekw- (3) "to say, utter" (cf. Hittite shakiya- "to declare," Lithuanian sakyti "to say," Old Church Slavonic sociti "to vindicate, show," Old Irish insce "speech," Old Latin inseque "to tell say").

Past tense said developed from Old English segde. Not attested in use with inanimate objects (clocks, signs, etc.) as subjects before 1930. You said it "you're right" first recorded 1919; you can say that again as a phrase expressing agreement is recorded from 1942, American English. You don't say (so) as an expression of astonishment (often ironic) is first recorded 1779, American English.


"what someone says," 1570s, from say (v.). Meaning "right or authority to influence a decision" is from 1610s. Extended form say-so is first recorded 1630s. Cf. Old English secge "speech."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with say


In addition to the idioms beginning with say

  • say a mouthful
  • say grace
  • say one's piece
  • says who?
  • say the word
  • say uncle

also see:

  • before you can say Jack Robinson
  • cry (say) uncle
  • do as I say
  • give (say) the word
  • go without (saying)
  • have a say in
  • I dare say
  • I'll say
  • needless to say
  • never say die
  • never say never
  • not to mention (say nothing of)
  • on one's say-so
  • strange to say
  • suffice it to say
  • that is (to say)
  • to say the least
  • you can say that again
  • you don't say

Also see undersaid.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.