A sight is something viewed or worth seeing. A site is a physical location or website.
What is the difference between site and sight?
Words like site and sight are homophones, meaning they sound exactly the same but have different meanings:
- To site (verb) is to install; a site (noun) is a place or location.
- To sight (verb) is to see; a sight (noun) is something seen or worth seeing.
The word cite (short for “citation”) is another homophone of sight and site. As a verb, cite means to reference, quote, or summon before an authority (such as a court). The noun cite references a summons, notice of violation, or an instance of quoting.
What does site mean?
The noun site references an area or location of a building, monument, activity, event, or, sometimes, a “website” (like the one you’re currently visiting).
- “Students visited various historical sites along the Oregon Trail.”
- “The Greek Theater was a popular tourist site until the city tore it down.”
- “You can read academic papers on the faculty site.”
Area, location, locality, lot, place, plot, position, scene, setting, situation, spot, whereabouts.
How to use site as a verb?
In sentences with a direct object, the verb site means “to fix or build something at a particular location.”
- “Developers believe the block is well-sited for the town’s new courthouse.”
- “Many new leaders are siting solar panels on agricultural land.”
- “Residents oppose the city’s plan to site a towering luxury hotel in place of the local marketplace.”
Install, locate, place, position, put, set.
Etymology of site
The noun site entered late Middle English from Anglo-Norman French by way of Latin situs for ‘local position.’
What does sight mean?
As a mass noun, the word sight typically references the ability to see, observe, or perceive something, such as an object, opinion, expectation, or even a measurement of distance.
- “Joey’s sight is fine. He chooses to wear fake eyeglasses.”
- “Leave my sight at once!”
- “It was love at first sight.”
- “Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?”
The noun sight also references something that can be seen or something worth seeing, such as a city, tourist sight, or something with a ridiculous or messy appearance.
- “The Grand Canyon is a sight to be seen.”
- “There are many beautiful sights in Paris other than the Eiffel Tower.”
- “Artwork featured at the Musee du Louvre is truly a sight to behold.”
- “Did you catch sight of that walking trainwreck down the street?”
- “The crime scene was not a pretty sight.”
Lastly, the noun sight can reference a device on a gun or optical device that allows them to take aim.
- “The hunting competition splits participants by rifle weight and sight.”
- “Her gun was equipped with a laser sight and light.”
- “Experienced gun users develop a proper grip and sight alignment.”
 Eyes, eyesight, field/range of vision, glimpse, observation, outlook, opinion, perception, view, viewpoint, vision, visual.
 Beauty, curiosity, exhibition, feature, monument, rarity, scene, spectacle, view, wonder.
How to use sight as a verb?
The verb sight means “to see, observe, or catch an initial glimpse of something or someone” or “to adjust the sight of a firearm or optical instrument.”
- “The singer was sighted leaving court.”
- “The hunters sighted a few bears.”
- “Make sure you have your rifle sighted in before leaving.”
- “Our cousin was sighting his hunting rifle when a bear approached from behind.”
- “They went to the gravel pit to sight their new bolt-action rifles.”
Detect, glimpse, make out, notice, observe, see, spot, spy.
Etymology of sight
Middle English “sight” comes from Old English gesiht or sihth for ‘something seen.’
Tricky phrases of sight
The word sight appears in many straightforward phrases involving eyesight, such as the proverb “out of sight, out of mind,” which describes how something is forgotten as soon as it’s no longer visible.
However, some phrases of sight have less obvious meanings, especially for the comparative phrase “a sight” or when an expression contains “one’s sights.” Let’s take a look.
When a sight is not literally “a sight”
The noun sight often lends itself to the informal phrase “a sight,” which attributes something “to a considerable extent” or “much.” For example,
“…. whenever I let my dog out, I’ll definitely have to watch out for something a far sight bigger than the odd groundhog.” — Worcester Magazine
“At the end of the day, opioids are a damn sight more dangerous than cannabis.” — The Guardian
However, writers should be careful not to confuse this meaning with phrases of sight that reference specific things that are seen, such as “a sight to behold,” “a beautiful sight,” or “catch sight of….”
When sight is a metaphor for ambition
In our sentence examples above, you may have noticed how sight appears in phrasing that can imply something outside the act of viewing with one’s eyes. That’s because “sight” is often a metaphor for one’s ambitions, expectations, or dreams.
For instance, “in one’s sights” can denote something “within the scope” of one’s expectations or ambitions, while the set phrase “set one’s sights” might mean “to have one’s ambition.”
“With Joe Biden in office, a serious plan to combat climate change is finally in our sights — but the clock is ticking, and there is no more room for error.” — Rolling Stone
“A budding composer, Boulanger set her sights on the Prix de Rome.” — The New York Times
Lower one’s sights vs. raise one’s sights
To lower one’s sights is to become less ambitious or “to accept that you will only be able to get something less than you hoped for.” Therefore, the phrase “raise of sights” has the opposite meaning: To become more ambitious or raise one’s expectations.
“…’ it would be most ladylike and gracious to lower your sights and have a modest wedding, as befits both your incomes.’” — The Sydney Morning Herald
“To the masters of Big Tech, I say: Raise your sights. If you want to be leaders for this country in this century, earn it.” — The Wall Street Journal
What does “sight unseen” mean?
The phrase “sight unseen” is not a metaphor and explicitly references eyesight, but it is relatively uncommon, nonetheless.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “sight unseen” (also spelled sight-unseen) is an adverbial phrase that means “without seeing or examining something.”
“While they remain happily married following the experimental reality show, which saw them propose to one another through a wall sight unseen, not all the engaged couples were as fortunate.” — Newsweek
“Well-heeled purchasers crowded out competitors through cash purchases, sometimes buying houses sight unseen and without inspections.” — The Keene Sentinel
How to remember the difference between site vs. sight?
An easy way to remember the meaning of site from sight is to recall compound words in which they appear:
- Sight appears in the compound word insight — “the power of seeing into a situation.”
- Site appears in several compound words, including campsite — a place where one camps.
Other words with sight include:
Additional terms with site:
- Web site or website
If you enjoy learning about homophones, be sure to check out similar lessons by The Word Counter, such as:
Test how well you understood our lesson on sight vs. site with the following multiple-choice questions.
- True or false?: “Sight,” “site,” and “cite” are examples of homophones.
- The noun “sight” is more likely to reference _______________.
a. The location of a place
b. An area of ground
c. A specified place
d. A sense of vision
- The noun “site” does not reference ____________.
a. A specific place
b. A justification of an argument
c. A piece of land
d. A specific location
- To “site” something is to _____________.
a. Provide notice of violation
b. Mention or quote an outside source
c. Provide legal context
d. To build something at a physical location
- Choose the correct word: “Paparazzi caught a __________ of Simpson standing in front of a court.”
- Busby, M. “Call for UK prisons to trial free cannabis to see if it cuts drug deaths.” The Guardian, theguardian.com, 10 Jan 2021.
- “Cite.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
- “Citation.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2021.
- Coward, R. “
The dark side of the royal fairytale.” The Sydney Morning Herald, smh.au, 11 Jul 2011.
- Dewitt, E. “Housing market boom prices out middle-income Granite Staters.” The Keene Sentinel, sentinelsource.com, 30 Aug 2021.
- Garner, B. “Site; sight.” Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 833.
- Goodell, J. “Now Is Our Last Best Chance to Confront the Climate Crisis.” Rolling Stone, rollingstone.com, 14 Apr 2021.
- Hawley, J. “Big Tech’s ‘Innovations’ That Aren’t.” The Wall Street Journal, wsj.com, 28 Aug 2019.
- “Insight.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
- Lees, E. “Love Is Blind’ Couples: Can You Really Fall in Love Sight Unseen?” Newsweek, newsweek.com, 4 Aug 2021.
- “Lower your sights.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
- Mudambi, V. “Worcesteria: More moose on the loose?” Worcester Magazine, worcestermag.com, 25 Feb 2021.
- Robin, W. “She Was Music’s Greatest Teacher. And Much More.” The New York Times, nytimes.com, 30 Jul 2021.
- “Sight.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2021.
- “Sight.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
- “Sight unseen.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
- “Site.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.