- to take hold of suddenly or forcibly; grasp: to seize a weapon.
- to grasp mentally; understand clearly and completely: to seize an idea.
- to take possession of by force or at will: to seize enemy ships.
- to take possession or control of as if by suddenly laying hold: Panic seized the crowd.
- to take possession of by legal authority; confiscate: to seize smuggled goods.
- Also seise. Law. to put (someone) in seizin or legal possession of property (usually used in passive constructions): She was seized of vast estates.
- to capture; take into custody.
- to take advantage of promptly: to seize an opportunity.
- Nautical. to bind or fasten together with a seizing.
- to grab or take hold suddenly or forcibly (usually followed by on or upon): to seize on a rope.
- to resort to a method, plan, etc., in desperation (usually followed by on or upon): He must seize on a solution, however risky.
- to have moving parts bind and stop moving as a result of excessive pressure, temperature, or friction (usually followed by up): The engine seized up from cold.
Origin of seize
SynonymsSee more synonyms for seize on Thesaurus.com
- (also intr foll by on ) to take hold of quickly; grabshe seized her hat and ran for the bus
- (sometimes foll by on or upon) to grasp mentally, esp rapidlyshe immediately seized his idea
- to take mental possession ofalarm seized the crowd
- to take possession of rapidly and forciblythe thief seized the woman's purse
- to take legal possession of; take into custody
- to take by force or capturethe army seized the undefended town
- to take immediate advantage ofto seize an opportunity
- nautical to bind (two ropes together or a piece of gear to a rope)See also serve (def. 19)
- (intr often foll by up) (of mechanical parts) to become jammed, esp because of excessive heat
- (passive usually foll by of) to be apprised of; conversant with
- the usual US spelling of seise
Word Origin and History for seize up
mid-13c., from Old French seisir "to take possession of, take by force; put in possession of, bestow upon" (Modern French saisir), from Late Latin sacire, which is generally held to be from a Germanic source, but the exact origin is uncertain. Perhaps from Frankish *sakjan "lay claim to" (cf. Gothic sokjan, Old English secan "to seek;" see seek). Or perhaps from Proto-Germanic *satjan "to place" (see set (v.)).
Originally a legal term in reference to feudal property holdings or offices. Meaning "to grip with the hands or teeth" is from c.1300; that of "to take possession by force or capture" (of a city, etc.) is from mid-14c. Figurative use, with reference to death, disease, fear, etc. is from late 14c. Meaning "to grasp with the mind" is attested from 1855. Of engines or other mechanisms, attested from 1878. Related: Seized; seizing.
Idioms and Phrases with seize up
Come to a halt, as in The peace talks seized up and were not rescheduled. Originally, from about 1870 on, this term was applied to a machine of some kind that jammed or locked, owing to excessive heat or friction. Its figurative use dates from about 1950.