From Middle English seken (also sechen, whence dialectal English seech), from Old English sēċan, with influence from Old Norse sœkja, whence the hard /k/ sound (compare beseech); both from Proto-Germanic *sōkijaną (to seek), from Proto-Indo-European *seh₂g- (to seek out). Cognate with West Frisian sykje, Dutch zoeken, Low German söken, German suchen, Danish søge, Icelandic sækja, Norwegian Bokmål søke, Norwegian Nynorsk søkja, Swedish söka.



seek (third-person singular simple present seeks, present participle seeking, simple past and past participle sought)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To try to find; to look for; to search for.

    I seek wisdom.

    • 2013 July-August, Catherine Clabby, “Focus on Everything”, in American Scientist:

      Not long ago, it was difficult to produce photographs of tiny creatures with every part in focus. [] A photo processing technique called focus stacking has changed that. Developed as a tool to electronically combine the sharpest bits of multiple digital images, focus stacking is a boon to biologists seeking full focus on a micron scale.

  2. (transitive) To ask for; to solicit; to beseech.

    I seek forgiveness through prayer.

  3. (transitive) To try to acquire or gain; to strive after; to aim at.

    I sought my fortune on the goldfields.

    • 1880, George Q. Cannon, How the Gospel is Preached By the Elders, etc.:
      But persecution sought the lives of men of this character.
    • 1886, Constantine Popoff, translation of Leo Tolstoy’s What I Believe:
      I can no longer seek fame or glory, nor can I help trying to get rid of my riches, which separate me from my fellow-creatures.
    • Serene, smiling, enigmatic, she faced him with no fear whatever showing in her dark eyes. [] She put back a truant curl from her forehead where it had sought egress to the world, and looked him full in the face now, drawing a deep breath which caused the round of her bosom to lift the lace at her throat.
  4. (intransitive, obsolete) To go, move, travel (in a given direction).
    • a. 1472, Thomas Malory, “(please specify the chapter)”, in [Le Morte Darthur], book V, [London: [] by William Caxton], published 31 July 1485, OCLC 71490786; republished as H[einrich] Oskar Sommer, editor, Le Morte Darthur [], London: David Nutt, [], 1889, OCLC 890162034:

      Ryght so he sought [] towarde Sandewyche where he founde before hym many galyard knyghtes
  5. (transitive) To try to reach or come to; to go to; to resort to.

    When the alarm went off I sought the exit in a panic.

    • Seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought.
    • 1726 (tr.), Alexander Pope, Homer’s Odyssey, Book II, line 33
      Since great Ulysses sought the Phrygian plains
  6. (intransitive) To attempt, endeavour, try
    Our company does not seek to limit its employees from using the internet or engaging in social networking.
  7. (intransitive, computing) To navigate through a stream.
    Synonym: scrub
    • 2009, Jit Ghosh, Rob Cameron, Silverlight 2 Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach (page 541)
      Most of the changes made to this control are to accommodate the various constraints that playback of streaming media may impose in broadcast streams, such as the inability to seek through the media.


For more quotations using this term, see Citations:seek.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The word is sometimes used to mean “try” or “want”. This usage is criticized by Fowler in the entry “Formal Words”.


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



seek (plural seeks)

  1. (computing) The operation of navigating through a stream.
    • 2012, Aidong Zhang, Avi Silberschatz, Sharad Mehrotra, Continuous Media Databases (page 120)
      The number of seeks to retrieve a shot [] depends on the location of those frames on physical blocks.


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