Intermediate+ Word of the Day: sit

sit (verb) /sɪt/ LISTEN

To sit is, of course, ‘to rest your body on your buttocks or to be located somewhere.’ Used as a suffix, it means ‘to take care of something or someone’ and, if birds sit, ‘they cover their eggs with their bodies.’ If clothes sit on someone in a certain manner, it means ‘they fit or hang in that way,’ and if you let something sit, it means that ‘you let it go or accept it.’ Informally, we use sit to talk about ‘food that is well accepted, or not, by out stomachs.’ If a court sits, it means ‘it is in session’ and ‘to have an official position, in a court or on a committee of some kind,’ is also to sit.

Example sentences

  • Everyone was sitting at the table, eating dinner.
  • We always find someone to house-sit for us when we go on holiday, so that we don't have to worry about our pets and plants.
  • That hen is sitting on a clutch of eggs.
  • That shirt sits well on him.
  • It was clear we would never agree on this subject, so it was better for both of us to let it sit.
  • The pasta I ate for lunch is not sitting well.
  • The court will sit on Wednesday.
  • Monica sits on the local planning committee.

Words often used with sit

sit on: as well as the obvious, physical meaning, to sit on something, figuratively, means ‘to suppress something.’ Example: “They didn’t want to upset the children any further, so they sat on the bad news.”

sit on your hands: ‘not take appropriate action.’ Example: “It is clear that these people need help urgently, but the politicians are all just sitting on their hands!”

sit tight: ‘take no action.’ Example: “I’m going to get some more information; just sit tight until I call you back.”

sit something out: ‘endure, make it to the end of something.’ Example: “The situation is pretty bad, but I guess we’ll just have to sit it out.” In US English, to sit something out can also mean to not take part, and originally applied to sports and games. Example: “Mark tore a ligament in his knee, so he’ll have to sit out the rest of the football season.”

sit pretty: ‘be in a comfortable situation.’ Example: “Well, Mark is certainly sitting pretty now with his high salary and big house.”

In pop culture

Lots of people babysit to earn extra money when they are young, but it isn’t always easy and not everyone is good at it, as you can see in this trailer for the 1987 movie Adventures in Babysitting:

Additional information

In UK English, if you sit an exam it means that ‘you take it.’

Did you know?

You can use sit as a suffix with the name of just about anything you might want taken care of. The most common ones are babysit, house-sit, pet-sit, dog-sit, and cat-sit.

Other forms

sitter (noun)

Origin

Sit dates back to before the year 900. The Old English verb sittan, which became sitten in Middle English before dropping the old verb ending. It has had many meanings since the beginning: ‘to occupy a seat, be seated, sit down or seat oneself,’ ‘to remain or continue,’ ‘to settle, encamp or occupy,’ and ‘to lie in wait.’ It can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic stejan (to sit) and the Proto-Indo-European root sed- (to sit). It is related to the Old Saxon sittian, the Old Norse sitja, the Danish sidde, the Old Frisian sitta, the Middle Dutch sitten, the Dutch zitten, the Old High German sizzan, the German sitzen and the Gothic sitan (all meaning sit), as well as the Latin sedēre, the Greek hézesthai, and it is loosely related to the English words set, sedate and nest. The meaning ‘care for’ (as in babysit or pet-sit) first appeared in the mid-20th century. The expression “to sit back” dates back to the 1940s, while “to sit on your hands” originally meant to not clap after a performance, and dates back to the 1920s. The figurative meaning ‘to do nothing’ appeared in the 1950s. Sitting pretty originated in the US in the early 20th century.

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