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Visions and Visits

Vision and visit both pertain to seeing something, and that’s no coincidence, because they are cognates, both stemming from the Latin verb videre, meaning “see.” A discussion of the words, their variations, and some related terms follows.

The word vision describes the literal ability to see and the figurative sense of something conjured by the imagination as if it is seen or even merely contemplated (the original connotation), as well as the act or power of seeing or imagination. In addition, the word refers to the quality of discernment or foresight, a sense that arose only about a century ago. A vision is also something seen, including a particularly charming or lovely person, place, or thing. Little-used adjectival and adverbial forms are visional and visionally.

Someone with discernment or foresight is called a visionary. Other words in the vision family include envision, a verb meaning “picture.” Something that can be seen is visible (the adverbial form is visibly), and the quality of being able to be seen, whether on a practical level or in the sense of celebrity, is visibility; the antonym is invisibility.

The adjective visual refers to the faculty or process of sight, and the adverbial form is visually. Visualize is the verb form, and something visualized is a visualization. (The British English spellings are visualise and visualisation.) Something that does not involve sight is nonvisual.

Related compounds are television (a compound of the Greek word tele, meaning “far off,” and vision), audiovisual (an adjective referring to technology that enables sight and sound), and proper nouns such as VistaVision, the brand name of an obsolete form of wide-screen cinematography.

Several words referring to the face include the syllable vis, which stems from videre and refers to one’s appearance or face, including visage, a noun that is a synonym for “face,” and visor, originally a reference to the part of a helmet covering the entire head that protects the eyes (and later to an eyeshade). Envisage is a synonym for envision. (A related term is the adopted French term vis-à-vis, meaning “face to face,” which in English is a preposition meaning “face to face with” or “in relation to” or “compared with.” Less commonly, it is a noun referring to a counterpart or a person one is on a date with, or an intimate conversation, as well as an adverb meaning “together.”)

Visit began as a verb describing someone attending on another to benefit or comfort and later came to refer to one or more people paying a call to one or more others, as well as the sense of afflicting or coming on to (as in the biblical verse “The sins of the fathers are visited on the sons”). Later, it became a noun describing the instance of paying a call. One who visits is a visitor (the term, for example, refers to members of a sports team coming from somewhere else to compete with the home team), and a visitation is an instance of an official Visit (or is an adjective referring to such a visit). Visit, visitor, and visitation also have a connotation of an examination or inspection of a place of religion. To revisit is to consider something a second time; it is generally not used to mean literally “visit again.”

The verb advise and the noun advice, referring to recommendations given, ultimately derive from videre by way of the Old French term avis, meaning “idea,” “judgment,” or “view.” Advisory is the adjectival form as well as a noun referring to a report that gives advice or suggests a course of action. (Despite that spelling, adviser is favored over advisor to describe someone who does so.)

To supervise is literally to look over, to manage or monitor an area or a procedure; the act of doing so is supervision and the actor is a supervisor, and the adjectival form is supervisory. Meanwhile, revise means “look again” and refers to changing something—generally, something written—that one (or someone else) has produced; the adjective is revised, and the noun for the act is revision. (There is no direct actor noun, although one might be referred to as a reviewer.)

To improvise is to do something unprepared or to make something using available resources; the act is improvisation.

Words from other languages that stem from videre include visa, from the Modern Latin phrase charta visa, which literally means “paper that has been seen” and refers to a document or to a sticker or stamp in a passport that confirms authorization to visit a foreign country, and vista, from the Italian word for “sight” or “view,” which refers to a prospect or a view of a landscape or seascape.

A subsequent post will discuss words stemming from videre that do not include the element vis.

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Original post: Visions and Visits

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Visions and Visits


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