1265, from O.Fr. seisir "to put in possession of, to take possession of," from L.L. sacire, generally held to be from a Gmc. source, perhaps from Frankish *sakjan "lay claim to" (cf. Goth. sokjan, O.E. secan "to seek;" see seek
), or from P.Gmc. *satjan "to place" (see set (v.)).
Originally a legal term in ref. to feudal property holdings or offices. Meaning "to grip with the hands or teeth" is from c.1300; that of "to take possession by force or capture" (of a city, etc.) is from 1338. Fig. use, with ref. to death, disease, fear, etc. is from c.1381. Meaning "to grasp with the mind" is attested from 1855. Of engines or other mechanisms, attested from 1878.