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Root Greek

Mat Says:

Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?

To find an answer to the question we will break each word down to its basic components.


Words generally tend to have a root, sometimes Greek, sometimes Latin. I don’t know where Ove came from, but wikipedia says “a gullible teenager who is Boyzvoice’s biggest fan.”

…okay, not sure where that points is, but we’ll go with that.

I don’t even need to research “R”. That’s a word we have all heard many times before, “Get r done.” “r” obviously stands for the subject, which will change from application to application depending on what it is you are overlooking.

“Loo” is a water closet. Or in other words, a bathroom (for the English).

“K” is a hard one to pin down. We have seen it used in the phrase “Hmmmmk”, which is to confirm. But that can also be used in question form.

Beyond that, we have “ok” and the more eloquent phrase “okay”. Its safe to assume that the “K” in this word is a confirmation.

In summary we have a fan (the person not the device), of whatever is being overlooked, in the bathroom, confirmed.

Overlook = A rabid fan being “subject” in the bathroom is confirmed.

Now that we have Overlook dissected, let’s look at Oversee.


“Ov” is a “Common notation for an overhead bird sighting.”

“Er” is a sign of confusion or hesitation. For example “Er, dude, what did you just do?” Or the elongated, which is used when conveying an increased amount of confusion “Eeeeeer, dude, did you just push that stroller down the hill?”

“S” is elusive. It could be used as a warning noise made by pushing the tongue up against the front teeth. But if that were truly the meaning, I’d expect a few more “S”‘s (such as “Ssss”, for example). My conclusion is that “S” represents the noise made when attempting discreetly bring someone’s attention to yourself.

“Ee” is an indication of fear. When a person is startled and scared of something they see, they will respond by emitting a sharp “Ee!” noise. Probably better conveyed through “Eeee!”, sometimes it takes the form of “Eeeek!”.

In summary, we have a bird sighted above, someone confused by the bird, someone discreetly trying to un-confuse the person confused, and another person scared of what might happen if that person is successful in explaining the confusion.

Thus we see that the reason both things mean entirely different things is because they both come from different word families that accumulate to completely different meanings. Despite the similarity in spelling, and the coincidental similarity of the second part of each word (“look” and “see”).

Read it in the bathroom! Print It! Read it in the bathroom! Print It!

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2 Responses to “A Comparison of Words: Overlook and Oversee”

  1. on 31 Mar 2008 at 8:34 pmmat

    Wow, I don’t know why that was so funny but I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Good answer, best you’ve given yet.

    -Mat Black

  2. on 08 Apr 2008 at 9:46 amStephen

    Glad you liked it. :) I liked it too.

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