before 900; (v.) Middle English setten, Old English settan; cognate with Old Norse setja, German setzen, Gothic satjan, all 1 ; (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 Expand
interset, verb (used with object), interset, intersetting.
misset, verb, misset, missetting.
Can be confused Expand
set, sit (see usage note at the current entry)
1. position, locate, situate, plant. 11. estimate, appraise, evaluate, price, rate. 13. establish. 55. solidify, congeal, harden. 70. clique. 72. attitude. 73. posture. 94. predetermined. 98. stubborn, obstinate.
Synonym Study Expand
Usage note Expand
The verbs set and sit 1 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 ).
a number of objects or people grouped or belonging together, often forming a unit or having certain features or characteristics in common: a set of coins, John is in the top set for maths
a group of people who associate together, esp a clique: he’s part of the jet set
( maths. logic )
- Also called class. a 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
- (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 games: Graf lost the first set
- the number of couples required for a formation dance
- a series of figures that make up a formation dance
- a band’s or performer’s concert repertoire on a given occasion: the set included no new numbers
- a continuous performance: the Who played two sets
verb sets, setting, set
( intransitive ) (in square dancing and country dancing) to perform a sequence of steps while facing towards another dancer: set to your partners
( usually transitive ) to divide into sets: in this school we set our older pupils for English
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
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Word Origin and History for set Expand
Old English settan (transitive) “cause to sit, put in some place, fix firmly; build, found; appoint, assign,” from Proto-Germanic *(bi)satjan “to cause to sit, set” (cf. Old Norse setja. Swedish sätta. Old Saxon settian. Old Frisian setta. Dutch zetten. German setzen. Gothic satjan ), causative form of PIE *sod-. variant of *sed- “to sit” (see sit (v.)). Also cf. set (n.2).
Intransitive sense from c.1200, “be seated.” Used in many disparate senses by Middle English; sense of “make or cause to do, act, or be; start” and that of “mount a gemstone” attested by mid-13c. Confused with sit since early 14c. Of the sun, moon, etc. “to go down,” recorded from c.1300, perhaps from similar use of the cognates in Scandinavian languages. To set (something) on “incite to attack” (c.1300) originally was in reference to hounds and game.
“fixed,” c.1200, sett. past participle of setten “to set” (see set (v.)). Meaning “ready, prepared” first recorded 1844.
“collection of things,” mid-15c. from Old French sette “sequence,” variant of secte “religious community,” from Medieval Latin secta “retinue,” from Latin secta “a following” (see sect ). “[I]n subsequent developments of meaning influenced by SET v .1 and apprehended as equivalent to ‘number set together'” [OED]. The noun set was in Middle English, but only in the sense of “religious sect” (late 14c.), which likely is the direct source of some modern meanings, e.g. “group of persons with shared status, habits, etc.” (1680s).
Meaning “complete collection of pieces” is from 1680s. Meaning “group of pieces musicians perform at a club during 45 minutes” (more or less) is from c.1925, though it is found in a similar sense in 1580s. Set piece is from 1846 as “grouping of people in a work of visual art;” from 1932 in reference to literary works.
“act of setting; condition of being set” (of a heavenly body), mid-14c. from set (v.) or its identical past participle. Many disparate senses collect under this word because of the far-flung meanings assigned to the verb:
“Action of hardening,” 1837; also “manner or position in which something is set” (1530s), hence “general movement, direction, tendency” (1560s); “build, form” (1610s), hence “bearing, carriage” (1855); “action of fixing the hair in a particular style” (1933).
“Something that has been set” (1510s), hence the use in tennis (1570s) and the theatrical meaning “scenery for an individual scene in a play, etc.,” recorded from 1859. Other meanings OED groups under “miscellaneous technical senses” include “piece of electrical apparatus” (1891, first in telegraphy); “burrow of a badger” (1898). Old English had set “seat,” in plural “camp; stable,” but OED finds it “doubtful whether this survived beyond OE.” Cf. set (n.1).
Set (n.1) and set (n.2) are not always distinguished in dictionaries; OED has them as two entries, Century Dictionary as one. The difference of opinion seems to be whether the set meaning “group, grouping” (here (n.2)) is a borrowing of the unrelated French word that sounds like the native English one, or a borrowing of the sense only, which was absorbed into the English word.