Is this word sometimes perceived as "silly" by a native speaker? By "silly" I mean something in itself a bit absurd, because repetitive, naively constructed, given that this word is composed of the noun "sight" (view, what is seen, and also the faculty of seeing) based on the very verb "to see", and the verb "to see" itself.

(If a such word would be created like that in French it would be something like "voirvision"-- in Italian something like "vistavedere", and in my native Romanian "a vedea vedere" or simply "vedere-vedere".)

I am not a native speaker myself and although I knew the correct spelling I think I always "thought" of it as "site-seeing", the seeing of a ... site! (place, location)... Until now.

Looking at its etymology, "sight" is construed from Old English, and not directly from the modern verb "to see". Isn't the idea of seeing present in the word "sight" so that "sightseeing" sounds tautological and a bit nonsensical, as if seeing double?

  • 2
    In any language, words that enter common use become accepted. If people had thought they were absurd they would never have become so common. This is just psychology. A different sort of example illustrates this. In Scotland the surname Smellie is not uncommon. It is pronounced “smelly”, although some change its pronunciation to “smiley” and its spelling to Smillie”. When I came to work in Scotland and found my boss’s surname was “Smellie” (pronounced “smelly”) it seemed “silly” at first — but only for about a day. Likewise an English speaker in Germany — Fuchs, Fahrt usw.
    – David
    Aug 26, 2022 at 13:28
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    One can see many things, only a few are actually “sights” - features of a place that are worth seeing.
    – k1eran
    Aug 26, 2022 at 13:31
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    And my Latin master in the 50s couldn’t abide “television”. (I can’t either, but the content not the hybrid Greco-Latin origin.)
    – David
    Aug 26, 2022 at 13:32
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    @k1eran - I guess that answers it: the word is not perceived as silly, no matter the etymology, given that "sight' clearly and straightforwardly means "worth seeing", and thus "sightseeing" means "seeing what is worth to be seen".
    – cipricus
    Aug 26, 2022 at 13:34
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    This is not opinion based; there is an undisputed consensus in the existing answer and in the comments showing that the possible "silliness" is not "present". I'm voting for reopening.
    – LPH
    Aug 26, 2022 at 14:44

2 Answers 2


"Sightseeing" is a frequently used word, and not considered "silly".

While one definition of 'sight' is "range of view" (meaning everything you see is in your sight), it also means "places of interest", and so isn't tautological.

  • interestingly, it seems that the meaning "places of interest" is associated only with the plural
    – cipricus
    Aug 26, 2022 at 13:38
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    @cipricus The interest lies in the fact that sightseeing is comprised of two nouns, the first acting attributively. In such compounds, the first noun is only very rarely inflected as it is seen as acting adjectivally and adjectives do not inflect..
    – Greybeard
    Aug 26, 2022 at 16:36

Only on second thought, when looking at the base words etymologically can a notion of incongruity be felt, and then it is soon reckoned with as founded on false premises, premises of that sort that the intricacies of language occasionally introduce spuriously into our thinking. The user of English acknowleges instantly that out of the two very different meanings that "sight" has in "eyesight" and "sightseeing", the proper one is "places of interest"; this results from the clue "seeing" and possibly other clues in the context.

Although people do make the mistake of spelling this word "site seeing" there is no contesting of the legitimity of the word "sight" in that compound word. (Site Seeing or Sightseeing – Which is Correct?)

Interestingly enough, there are very similar constructions in French that would never suggest any idea of silliness. For those familiar with this language the following sentence will show what I mean.

  • Une prise de vue vue sous cet angle produit un reflet.

The first "vue" is not "sight" but "photograph" and the second is neither, but has to do with seeing again as it is the past participle of "voir" (to see).


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