verb (used with object)

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 formssight·a·ble, adjectivesight·er, nounre·sight, verb (used with object)un·der·sight, noun
Can be confusedcite sight site Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for sight unseen



the power or faculty of seeing; perception by the eyes; visionRelated adjectives: optical, visual
the act or an instance of seeing
the range of visionwithin sight of land
range of mental vision; point of view; judgmentin 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 plural) anything worth seeing; spectaclethe sights of London
informal anything unpleasant or undesirable to seehis 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
a sight informal a great dealshe'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 or on sight
  1. as soon as seen
  2. on presentationa bill payable at sight
know by sight to be familiar with the appearance of without having personal acquaintanceI know Mr Brown by sight but we have never spoken
not by a long sight informal on no account; not at all
out of sight
  1. slangnot 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 issueto buy a car sight unseen


(tr) 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 Formssightable, adjective

Word Origin for sight

Old English sihth; related to Old High German siht; see see 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 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

Medicine definitions for sight unseen




The ability to see.
Field of vision.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

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.


In addition to the idioms beginning with sight

  • sight for sore eyes, a
  • sight unseen

also see:

  • at first blush (sight)
  • at sight
  • can't stand the sight of
  • catch sight of
  • heave into sight
  • in sight
  • know by sight
  • lose sight of
  • love at first sight
  • lower one's sights
  • on sight
  • out of sight
  • raise one's sights
  • second sight
  • see the sights
  • set one's sights on
  • twenty-twenty hindsight
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.