specifically: the physical sense by which light stimuli received by the eye are interpreted by the brain and constructed into a representation of the position, shape, brightness, and usually color of objects in space
: based on recognition or comprehension without previous study
: payable on presentation
a sight draft
: at or within a reasonable distance or time
: as soon as seen
ordered to shoot on sight
out of sight
: beyond comparison
: beyond all expectation or reason
—used as a generalized expression of approval
sight for sore eyes
: one whose appearance or arrival is an occasion for joy or relief
Did you know?
Cite, Sight, and Site
As homophones—words that sound alike but are distinct— cite, sight, and site are easily confused, but they have different meanings, uses, and origins.
Cite is most often encountered in the sense of "to name in a citation"—that is, a line or short section taken from a piece of writing or a speech; it may also mean "to mention as an example" or "to order to appear in a court of law." Cite is from the Latin citare, "to rouse, call on, summon," source too of citation and recite.
Most of the senses of sight are concerned with seeing. A wonderful spectacle might be described as a sight, as might the general capacity to see anything ("my sight is not as good as it once was"). Sight is also used in a number of fixed phrases, such as "out of sight, out of mind," "sight unseen," and "set one's sights on." Sight comes from Old English gesiht, meaning "the faculty or act of sight, thing seen."
Site is most often concerned with location; it is related to situate, "to locate," and situation, "relative position or combination of circumstances at a particular moment." A building site is the place where a building is, or will be, located. In contemporary English, site is frequently used as a shortened form of website, to refer to the location of a group of web pages. Site comes from Latin situs, meaning "place, position, site."
Associating citation with cite, eyesight with sight, and situate with site may be helpful in applying these correctly.
She regained sight in her left eye.
The officers were ordered to shoot on sight.
Keep out of sight until I tell you it's OK to come out.
The child wandered out of sight.
Don't let the puppy out of your sight.
The rabbit disappeared from sight into the tall grass.
The controls are hidden from sight behind a panel. Verb
They sighted a ship in the distance.
Several bears have been sighted in the area. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Black women in menswear are a rare sight but Saunders winning this award shows that there is space for us in that world.—Essence, 4 Dec. 2023 There was no sight of the band to accompany her, but that didn’t stop the crowd from dancing along.—Suzy Exposito, Los Angeles Times, 4 Dec. 2023 End of carousel Keep your dirty dishes out of sight
All attendees, whether remote or in-person, should pay attention to their backgrounds.—Danielle Abril, Washington Post, 4 Dec. 2023 Some cisterns are installed above ground, others are buried underground and out of sight.—Nan Sterman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Dec. 2023 In Sydney, there’s Tank Stream, initially the only source of freshwater for the first European settlers; and in London, River Fleet is still visible in places, though mostly out of sight.—Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey, Condé Nast Traveler, 30 Nov. 2023 The state has lost over 100,000 acres of Atlantic white cedar.
A disturbing sight is growing in southern New Jersey's woodlands.—Ginger Zee, ABC News, 29 Nov. 2023 Imagine this: piles of receipts, a spreadsheet full of figures and tax deadlines looming—a familiar sight in my early days as an accountant.—Bryce Welker, Forbes, 28 Nov. 2023 Now with the election in sight, Mr. Hunt has found the money to offer some sweeteners in the form of lower taxes and even a freeze on alcohol duty.—Eshe Nelson, New York Times, 22 Nov. 2023
It was sighted again in Murrells Inlet—approximately 25 miles South of Apache Pier—on October 30.—Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, 8 Nov. 2023 Although low-key about their relationship, the couple were recently sighted leaving a Halloween party.—Elizabeth Ayoola, Essence, 31 Oct. 2023 The search for Williams is currently concentrated around Greeneville, where he was last sighted, said a spokesperson for the U.S. Marshal's Office.—Natalie Kainz, NBC News, 20 Oct. 2023 After that sighting from her perch on the bus, Frances’s whole life tilted sideways, and can never be righted.—Cressida Leyshon, The New Yorker, 9 Oct. 2023 The month starts with a can’t-beat Jupiter sighting and continues to delight with several meteor shower peaks.—Stephanie Vermillion, Travel + Leisure, 1 Nov. 2023 Robert has had one Bigfoot sighting in his life; he was awestruck by the large beast.—Amir Mahmoud, Arkansas Online, 29 Oct. 2023 The Swift sighting in Kansas City comes just one day after the singer walked the carpet at the Los Angeles premiere of her concert film, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.—Natasha Dye, Peoplemag, 13 Oct. 2023 Whalen made the first humpback whale sighting, as good fortune would have it.—Jennifer Billock, Condé Nast Traveler, 19 Oct. 2023
Officials say the goal is to improve safety by giving drivers more sight distance.—Fred Swegles, Orange County Register, 22 Feb. 2017 Sure, there are parts that stretch credibility (a tiny but apparently evil, rabbit is one), and there are sight jokes galore.—Joanne Engelhardt, The Mercury News, 3 May 2017 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sight.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Middle English, from Old English gesiht faculty or act of sight, thing seen; akin to Old High German gisiht sight, Old English sēon to see
First Known Use
before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1
specifically: the one of the five basic physical senses by which light stimuli received by the eye are interpreted by the brain and constructed into a representation of the position, shape, brightness, and usually color of objects in space