World English Dictionary
seize (siːz)
vb (on) (sometimes foll by on or upon) (often foll by up) (usually foll by of)
1.  to take hold of quickly; grab: she seized her hat and ran for the bus
2.  to grasp mentally, esp rapidly: she immediately seized his idea
3.  to take mental possession of: alarm seized the crowd
4.  to take possession of rapidly and forcibly: the thief seized the woman's purse
5.  to take legal possession of; take into custody
6.  to take by force or capture: the army seized the undefended town
7.  to take immediate advantage of: to seize an opportunity
8.  nautical See also serve to bind (two ropes together or a piece of gear to a rope)
9.  (of mechanical parts) to become jammed, esp because of excessive heat
10.  to be apprised of; conversant with
11.  the usual US spelling of seise
[C13 saisen, from Old French saisir, from Medieval Latin sacīre to position, of Germanic origin; related to Gothic satjan to set1]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

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.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

seize up

Come to a halt, as in The peace talks seized up and were not rescheduled. Originally, from about 1870 on, this term was applied to a machine of some kind that jammed or locked, owing to excessive heat or friction. Its figurative use dates from about 1950.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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