verb \ ˈsēz \
|Updated on: 10 Aug 2018

Definition of seize

seized; seizing
1 a usually seise play \ˈsēz\ : to vest ownership of a freehold estate in
b often seise : to put in possession of something
  • the biographer will be seized of all pertinent papers
2 a : to take possession of : confiscate
b : to take possession of by legal process
3 a : to possess or take by force : capture
b : to take prisoner : arrest
4 a : to take hold of : clutch
b : to possess oneself of : grasp
c : to understand fully and distinctly : apprehend
5 a : to attack or overwhelm physically : afflict
  • seized with chest pains
b : to possess (someone's thoughts, mind, etc.) completely or overwhelmingly
  • seized the popular imagination
  • —Basil Davenport
6 : to bind or fasten together with a lashing of small stuff (such as yarn, marline, or fine wire)
1 : to take or lay hold suddenly or forcibly
2 a : to cohere to a relatively moving part through excessive pressure, temperature, or friction used especially of machine parts (such as bearings, brakes, or pistons)
b : to fail to operate due to the seizing of a part used of an engine



Examples of seize in a Sentence

  1. The bank seized their property.

  2. The army has seized control of the city.

  3. A rebel group attempted to seize power.

  4. He suddenly seized the lead in the final lap of the race.

  5. He seized her by the arm.

  6. He tried to seize the gun from him.

  7. She was seized by kidnappers and carried off to a hidden location.

  8. He seized the chance to present his ideas to his boss.

  9. Seizing the moment, she introduced herself to the famous film director.

Recent Examples of seize from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'seize.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of seize

Middle English saisen, from Anglo-French seisir, from Medieval Latin sacire, of Germanic origin; perhaps akin to Old High German sezzen to set — more at set

Synonym Discussion of seize

take, seize, grasp, clutch, snatch, grab mean to get hold of by or as if by catching up with the hand. take is a general term applicable to any manner of getting something into one's possession or control.
    • take some salad from the bowl
seize implies a sudden and forcible movement in getting hold of something tangible or an apprehending of something fleeting or elusive when intangible.
    • seized the suspect
grasp stresses a laying hold so as to have firmly in possession.
    • grasp the handle and pull
clutch suggests avidity or anxiety in seizing or grasping and may imply less success in holding.
    • clutching her purse
snatch suggests more suddenness or quickness but less force than seize.
    • snatched a doughnut and ran
grab implies more roughness or rudeness than snatch.
    • grabbed roughly by the arm

SEIZE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of seize for English Language Learners

  • : to use legal or official power to take (something)

  • : to get or take (something) in a forceful, sudden, or violent way

  • : to attack and take control of (a place) by force or violence

SEIZE Defined for Kids


verb \ ˈsēz \

Definition of seize for Students

seized; seizing
1 : to take possession of by or as if by force
  • Invaders seized the castle.
  • He seized the lead.
2 : to take hold of suddenly or with force
  • … Balin was just in time to seize the boat before it floated off …
  • —J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
3 : to take or use eagerly or quickly
  • She seized the opportunity to go.

Law Dictionary


transitive verb

legal Definition of seize

seized; seizing
1 or seise : to put in possession of property or vest with the right of possession or succession
  • stand seized of land
2 : to take possession or custody of (property) especially by lawful authority
  • seize drugs as evidence
  • the entry of a preliminary order of forfeiture authorizes the Attorney General…to seize the specific property subject to forfeiture
  • Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 32.2(b)(3)
  • can seize the goods subject to his security interest and…keep them in satisfaction of the debt
  • —J. J. White and R. S. Summers
— compare foreclose, repossess
3 : to detain (a person) in such circumstances as would lead a reasonable person to believe that he or she was not free to leave
  • determined that the defendant was seized when surrounded by police officers



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