Nearby words

  1. sestertius,
  2. sestet,
  3. sestina,
  4. sesto san giovanni,
  5. sestos,
  6. set a precedent,
  7. set about,
  8. set against,
  9. set an example,
  10. set apart


Origin of set

before 900; (v.) Middle English setten, Old English settan; cognate with Old Norse setja, German setzen, Gothic satjan, all < Germanic *satjan, causative of *setjan to sit1; (noun) (in senses denoting the action of setting or the state of being set) Middle English set, set(t)e, derivative of the v. and its past participle; (in senses denoting a group) Middle English sette < Old French < Latin secta sect (in later use influenced by the v. and Middle Low German gesette set, suite)

Related formsin·ter·set, verb (used with object), in·ter·set, in·ter·set·ting.mis·set, verb, mis·set, mis·set·ting.self-set, adjective

Can be confusedset sit (see usage note at the current entry)

Synonym study

1. See put. 70. See circle.

Usage note

The verbs set and sit1 are similar in form and meaning but different in grammatical use. Set is chiefly transitive and takes an object: Set the dish on the shelf. Its past tense and past participle are also set : Yesterday he set three posts for the fence. The judge has set the date for the trial. Set also has some standard intransitive uses, as “to pass below the horizon” ( The sun sets late in the northern latitudes during the summer ) and “to become firm, solid, etc.” ( This glue sets quickly ). The use of set for sit, “to be seated,” is nonstandard: Pull up a chair and set by me.
Sit is chiefly intransitive and does not take an object: Let's sit here in the shade. Its past tense and past participle are sat : They sat at the table for nearly two hours. Have they sat down yet? Transitive uses of sit include “to cause to sit” ( Pull up a chair and sit yourself down ) and “to provide seating for” ( The waiter sat us near the window ). Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for set upon

set upon


(intr, preposition) to attackthree thugs set upon him



verb sets, setting or set (mainly tr)

to put or place in position or into a specified state or conditionto set a book on the table; to set someone free
(also intr; foll by to or on) to put or be put (to); apply or be appliedhe set fire to the house; they set the dogs on the scent
to put into order or readiness for use; prepareto set a trap; to set the table for dinner
(also intr) to put, form, or be formed into a jelled, firm, fixed, or rigid statethe jelly set in three hours
(also intr) to put or be put into a position that will restore a normal stateto set a broken bone
to adjust (a clock or other instrument) to a position
to determine or establishwe have set the date for our wedding
to prescribe or allot (an undertaking, course of study, etc)the examiners have set ``Paradise Lost''
to arrange in a particular fashion, esp an attractive oneshe set her hair; the jeweller set the diamonds in silver
(of clothes) to hang or fit (well or badly) when worn
Also: set to music to provide music for (a poem or other text to be sung)
Also: set up printing to arrange or produce (type, film, etc) from (text or copy); compose
to arrange (a stage, television studio, etc) with scenery and props
to describe or present (a scene or the background to a literary work, story, etc) in wordshis novel is set in Russia
to present as a model of good or bad behaviour (esp in the phrases set an example, set a good example, set a bad example)
(foll by on or by) to value (something) at a specified price or estimation of worthhe set a high price on his services
(foll by at) to price (the value of something) at a specified sumhe set his services at £300
(also intr) to give or be given a particular directionhis course was set to the East
(also intr) to rig (a sail) or (of a sail) to be rigged so as to catch the wind
(intr) (of the sun, moon, etc) to disappear beneath the horizon
to leave (dough, etc) in one place so that it may prove
to sharpen (a cutting blade) by grinding or honing the angle adjacent to the cutting edge
to displace alternate teeth of (a saw) to opposite sides of the blade in order to increase the cutting efficiency
to sink (the head of a nail) below the surface surrounding it by using a nail set
computing to give (a binary circuit) the value 1
(of plants) to produce (fruits, seeds, etc) after pollination or (of fruits or seeds) to develop after pollination
to plant (seeds, seedlings, etc)
to place (a hen) on (eggs) for the purpose of incubation
(intr) (of a gun dog) to turn in the direction of game, indicating its presence
Scot and Irish to let or leaseto set a house
bridge to defeat (one's opponents) in their attempt to make a contract
a dialect word for sit
set eyes on to see


the act of setting or the state of being set
a condition of firmness or hardness
bearing, carriage, or posturethe set of a gun dog when pointing
the fit or hang of a garment, esp when worn
the scenery and other props used in and identifying the location of a stage or television production, film, etc
Also called: set width printing
  1. the width of the body of a piece of type
  2. the width of the lines of type in a page or column
  1. the cut of the sails or the arrangement of the sails, spars, rigging, etc, of a vessel
  2. the direction from which a wind is blowing or towards which a tide or current is moving
psychol a temporary bias disposing an organism to react to a stimulus in one way rather than in others
a seedling, cutting, or similar part that is ready for plantingonion sets
a blacksmith's tool with a short head similar to a cold chisel set transversely onto a handle and used, when struck with a hammer, for cutting off lengths of iron bars
the direction of flow of water
a mechanical distortion of shape or alignment, such as a bend in a piece of metal
the penetration of a driven pile for each blow of the drop hammer
a variant spelling of sett


fixed or established by authority or agreementset hours of work
(usually postpositive) rigid or inflexibleshe is set in her ways
unmoving; fixeda set expression on his face
conventional, artificial, or stereotyped, rather than spontaneousshe made her apology in set phrases
(postpositive; foll by on or upon) resolute in intentionhe is set upon marrying
(of a book, etc) prescribed for students' preparation for an examination

Word Origin for set

Old English settan, causative of sittan to sit; related to Old Frisian setta, Old High German sezzan




a number of objects or people grouped or belonging together, often forming a unit or having certain features or characteristics in commona set of coins; John is in the top set for maths
a group of people who associate together, esp a cliquehe's part of the jet set
maths logic
  1. Also called: classa collection of numbers, objects, etc, that is treated as an entity: 3, the moon is the set the two members of which are the number 3 and the moon
  2. (in some formulations) a class that can itself be a member of other classes
any apparatus that receives or transmits television or radio signals
tennis squash badminton one of the units of a match, in tennis one in which one player or pair of players must win at least six gamesGraf lost the first set
  1. the number of couples required for a formation dance
  2. a series of figures that make up a formation dance
  1. a band's or performer's concert repertoire on a given occasionthe set included no new numbers
  2. a continuous performancethe Who played two sets

verb sets, setting or set

(intr) (in square dancing and country dancing) to perform a sequence of steps while facing towards another dancerset to your partners
(usually tr) to divide into setsin this school we set our older pupils for English

Word Origin for set

C14 (in the obsolete sense: a religious sect): from Old French sette, from Latin secta sect; later sense development influenced by the verb set 1

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 set upon
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for set upon




To put in a specified position; place.
To put into a specified state.
To put into a stable position.
To fix firmly or in an immobile manner.
To become fixed or hardened; coagulate.
To bring the bones of a fracture back into a normal position or alignment.


The act or process of setting.
The condition resulting from setting.
A permanent firming or hardening of a substance.
The carriage or bearing of a part of the body.
A particular psychological state, usually of anticipation or preparedness.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for set upon



A collection of distinct elements that have something in common. In mathematics, sets are commonly represented by enclosing the members of a set in curly braces, as {1, 2, 3, 4, 5}, the set of all positive integers from 1 to 5.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with set upon

set upon

see set on.


In addition to the idioms beginning with set

  • set about
  • set against
  • set an example
  • set apart
  • set a precedent
  • set aside
  • set at
  • set at rest
  • set back
  • set back on one's heels
  • set back the clock
  • set by
  • set down
  • set eyes on
  • set fire to
  • set foot
  • set forth
  • set forward
  • set in
  • set in motion
  • set in one's ways, be
  • set off
  • set on
  • set on a pedestal
  • set one back
  • set one back on one's feet
  • set one's back up
  • set one's cap for
  • set one's face against
  • set one's heart on
  • set one's mind at rest
  • set one's mind on
  • set one's seal on
  • set one's sights on
  • set one's teeth on edge
  • set on fire
  • set out
  • set right
  • set sail
  • set store by
  • set straight
  • set the pace
  • set the record straight
  • set the scene for
  • set the table
  • set the wheels in motion
  • set the world on fire
  • set to
  • set tongues wagging
  • set to rights
  • set up
  • set up housekeeping
  • set upon
  • set up shop

also see:

  • all set
  • dead set against
  • get set
  • get (set) someone's back up
  • get (set) the ball rolling
  • lay (set) eyes on
  • on a pedestal, set
  • smart set
  • tongues wagging, set

Also see underput.

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