All set

to put (something or someone) in a particular place:
to set a vase on a table.
to place in a particular position or posture:
Set the baby on his feet.
to place in some relation to something or someone:
We set a supervisor over the new workers.
to put into some condition:
to set a house on fire.
to put or apply:
to set fire to a house.
to put in the proper position:
to set a chair back on its feet.
to put in the proper or desired order or condition for use:
to set a trap.
to distribute or arrange china, silver, etc., for use on (a table):
to set the table for dinner.
to place (the hair, especially when wet) on rollers, in clips, or the like, so that the hair will assume a particular style.
to put (a price or value) upon something:
He set $7500 as the right amount for the car. The teacher sets a high value on neatness.
to fix the value of at a certain amount or rate; value:
He set the car at $500. She sets neatness at a high value.
to post, station, or appoint for the purpose of performing some duty:
to set spies on a person.
to determine or fix definitely:
to set a time limit.
to resolve or decide upon:
to set a wedding date.
to cause to pass into a given state or condition:
to set one’s mind at rest; to set a prisoner free.
to direct or settle resolutely or wishfully:
to set one’s mind to a task.
to present as a model; place before others as a standard:
to set a good example.
to establish for others to follow:
to set a fast pace.
to prescribe or assign, as a task.
to adjust (a mechanism) so as to control its performance.
to adjust the hands of (a clock or watch) according to a certain standard:
I always set my watch by the clock in the library.
to adjust (a timer, alarm of a clock, etc.) so as to sound when desired:
He set the alarm for seven o’clock.
to fix or mount (a gem or the like) in a frame or setting.
to ornament or stud with gems or the like:
a bracelet set with pearls.
to cause to sit; seat:
to set a child in a highchair.
to put (a hen) on eggs to hatch them.
to place (eggs) under a hen or in an incubator for hatching.
to place or plant firmly:
to set a flagpole in concrete.
to put into a fixed, rigid, or settled state, as the face, muscles, etc.
to fix at a given point or calibration:
to set the dial on an oven; to set a micrometer.
to tighten (often followed by up):
to set nuts well up.
to cause to take a particular direction:
to set one’s course to the south.
Surgery. to put (a broken or dislocated bone) back in position.
(of a hunting dog) to indicate the position of (game) by standing stiffly and pointing with the muzzle.

to fit, as words to music.
to arrange for musical performance.
to arrange (music) for certain voices or instruments.


to arrange the scenery, properties, lights, etc., on (a stage) for an act or scene.
to prepare (a scene) for dramatic performance.

Nautical. to spread and secure (a sail) so as to catch the wind.

to arrange (type) in the order required for printing.
to put together types corresponding to (copy); compose in type:
to set an article.

Baking. to put aside (a substance to which yeast has been added) in order that it may rise.
to change into curd:
to set milk with rennet.
to cause (glue, mortar, or the like) to become fixed or hard.
to urge, goad, or encourage to attack:
to set the hounds on a trespasser.
Bridge. to cause (the opposing partnership or their contract) to fall short:
We set them two tricks at four spades. Only perfect defense could set four spades.
to affix or apply, as by stamping:
The king set his seal to the decree.
to fix or engage (a fishhook) firmly into the jaws of a fish by pulling hard on the line once the fish has taken the bait.
to sharpen or put a keen edge on (a blade, knife, razor, etc.) by honing or grinding.
to fix the length, width, and shape of (yarn, fabric, etc.).
Carpentry. to sink (a nail head) with a nail set.
to bend or form to the proper shape, as a saw tooth or a spring.
to bend the teeth of (a saw) outward from the blade alternately on both sides in order to make a cut wider than the blade itself.
to pass below the horizon; sink:
The sun sets early in winter.
to decline; wane.
to assume a fixed or rigid state, as the countenance or the muscles.
(of the hair) to be placed temporarily on rollers, in clips, or the like, in order to assume a particular style:
Long hair sets more easily than short hair.
to become firm, solid, or permanent, as mortar, glue, cement, or a dye, due to drying or physical or chemical change.
to sit on eggs to hatch them, as a hen.
to hang or fit, as clothes.
to begin to move; start (usually followed by forth, out, off, etc.).
(of a flower’s ovary) to develop into a fruit.
(of a hunting dog) to indicate the position of game.
to have a certain direction or course, as a wind, current, or the like.
Nautical. (of a sail) to be spread so as to catch the wind.
Printing. (of type) to occupy a certain width:
This copy sets to forty picas.
Nonstandard. sit:
Come in and set a spell.
the act or state of setting or the state of being set.
a collection of articles designed for use together:
a set of china; a chess set.
a collection, each member of which is adapted for a special use in a particular operation:
a set of golf clubs; a set of carving knives.
a number, group, or combination of things of similar nature, design, or function:
a set of ideas.
a series of volumes by one author, about one subject, etc.
a number, company, or group of persons associated by common interests, occupations, conventions, or status:
a set of murderous thieves; the smart set.
the fit, as of an article of clothing:
the set of his coat.
fixed direction, bent, or inclination:
The set of his mind was obvious.
bearing or carriage:
the set of one’s shoulders.
the assumption of a fixed, rigid, or hard state, as by mortar or glue.
the arrangement of the hair in a particular style:
How much does the beauty parlor charge for a shampoo and set?
a plate for holding a tool or die.
an apparatus for receiving radio or television programs; receiver.
Philately. a group of stamps that form a complete series.
Tennis. a unit of a match, consisting of a group of not fewer than six games with a margin of at least two games between the winner and loser:
He won the match in straight sets of 6–3, 6–4, 6–4.
a construction representing a place or scene in which the action takes place in a stage, motion-picture, or television production.

the bending out of the points of alternate teeth of a saw in opposite directions.
a permanent deformation or displacement of an object or part.
a tool for giving a certain form to something, as a saw tooth.

a chisel having a wide blade for dividing bricks.
Horticulture. a young plant, or a slip, tuber, or the like, suitable for planting.

the number of couples required to execute a quadrille or the like.
a series of movements or figures that make up a quadrille or the like.


a group of pieces played by a band, as in a night club, and followed by an intermission.
the period during which these pieces are played.

Bridge. a failure to take the number of tricks specified by one’s contract:
Our being vulnerable made the set even more costly.

the direction of a wind, current, etc.
the form or arrangement of the sails, spars, etc., of a vessel.
(def 12).

Psychology. a temporary state of an organism characterized by a readiness to respond to certain stimuli in a specific way.
Mining. a timber frame bracing or supporting the walls or roof of a shaft or stope.
Carpentry. .
Mathematics. a collection of objects or elements classed together.
Printing. the width of a body of type.
(def 3).
fixed or prescribed beforehand:
a set time; set rules.
specified; fixed:
The hall holds a set number of people.
deliberately composed; customary:
set phrases.
fixed; rigid:
a set smile.
resolved or determined; habitually or stubbornly fixed:
to be set in one’s opinions.
completely prepared; ready:
Is everyone set?
(in calling the start of a race):
Ready! Set! Go!
Also, get set!
set about,

to begin on; start.
to undertake; attempt.
to assault; attack.

set against,

to cause to be hostile or antagonistic.
to compare or contrast:
The advantages must be set against the disadvantages.

set ahead, to set to a later setting or time:
Set your clocks ahead one hour.
set apart,

to reserve for a particular purpose.
to cause to be noticed; distinguish:
Her bright red hair sets her apart from her sisters.

set aside,

to put to one side; reserve:
The clerk set aside the silver brooch for me.
to dismiss from the mind; reject.
to prevail over; discard; annul:
to set aside a verdict.

set back,

to hinder; impede.
to turn the hands of (a watch or clock) to show an earlier time:
When your plane gets to California, set your watch back two hours.
to reduce to a lower setting:
Set back the thermostat before you go to bed.

set by, to save or keep for future use.
set down,

to write or to copy or record in writing or printing.
to consider; estimate:
to set someone down as a fool.
to attribute; ascribe:
to set a failure down to bad planning.
to put in a position of rest on a level surface.
to humble or humiliate.
to land an airplane:
We set down in a heavy fog.
(in horse racing) to suspend (a jockey) from competition because of some offense or infraction of the rules.

set forth,

to give an account of; state; describe:
He set forth his theory in a scholarly report.
to begin a journey; start:
Columbus set forth with three small ships.

set in,

to begin to prevail; arrive:
Darkness set in.
(of winds or currents) to blow or flow toward the shore.

set off,

to cause to become ignited or to explode.
to begin; start.
to intensify or improve by contrast.
to begin a journey or trip; depart.

set on,

Also, set upon. to attack or cause to attack:
to set one’s dog on a stranger.
to instigate; incite:
to set a crew to mutiny.

set out,

to begin a journey or course:
to set out for home.
to undertake; attempt:
He set out to prove his point.
to design; plan:
to set out a pattern.
to define; describe:
to set out one’s arguments.
to plant:
to set out petunias and pansies.
to lay out (the plan of a building) in actual size at the site.
to lay out (a building member or the like) in actual size.

set to,

to make a vigorous effort; apply oneself to work; begin.
to begin to fight; contend.

set up,

to put upright; raise.
to put into a high or powerful position.
to construct; assemble; erect.
to be assembled or made ready for use:
exercise equipment that sets up in a jiffy.
to inaugurate; establish.
to enable to begin in business; provide with means.
Informal. to make a gift of; treat, as to drinks.
Informal. to stimulate; elate.
to propound; plan; advance.
to bring about; cause.
to become firm or hard, as a glue or cement:
a paint that sets up within five minutes.
to lead or lure into a dangerous, detrimental, or embarrassing situation, as by deceitful prearrangement or connivance.
to entrap or frame, as an innocent person in a crime or a criminal suspect in a culpable circumstance in order to achieve an arrest.
to arrange the murder or execution of:
His partner set him up with the mob.
Bridge. to establish (a suit):
to set up spades.

all set, Informal. in readiness; prepared:
They were at the starting line and all set to begin.
set forward, to turn the hands of (a watch or clock) to show a later time:
When your plane lands in New York, set your watch forward two hours.
set one’s face against. (def 56).
set store by. (def 16).
verb (mainly transitive) sets, setting, set
to put or place in position or into a specified state or condition: to set a book on the table, to set someone free
(also intransitive; foll by to or on) to put or be put (to); apply or be applied: he set fire to the house, they set the dogs on the scent
to put into order or readiness for use; prepare: to set a trap, to set the table for dinner
(also intransitive) to put, form, or be formed into a jelled, firm, fixed, or rigid state: the jelly set in three hours
(also intransitive) to put or be put into a position that will restore a normal state: to set a broken bone
to adjust (a clock or other instrument) to a position
to determine or establish: we have set the date for our wedding
to prescribe or allot (an undertaking, course of study, etc): the examiners have set “Paradise Lost”
to arrange in a particular fashion, esp an attractive one: she set her hair, the jeweller set the diamonds in silver
(of clothes) to hang or fit (well or badly) when worn
Also set to music. to provide music for (a poem or other text to be sung)
(printing) Also set up. to arrange or produce (type, film, etc) from (text or copy); compose
to arrange (a stage, television studio, etc) with scenery and props
to describe or present (a scene or the background to a literary work, story, etc) in words: his novel is set in Russia
to present as a model of good or bad behaviour (esp in the phrases set an example, set a good example, set a bad example)
foll by on or by. to value (something) at a specified price or estimation of worth: he set a high price on his services
(foll by at) to price (the value of something) at a specified sum: he set his services at £300
(also intransitive) to give or be given a particular direction: his course was set to the East
(also intransitive) to rig (a sail) or (of a sail) to be rigged so as to catch the wind
(intransitive) (of the sun, moon, etc) to disappear beneath the horizon
to leave (dough, etc) in one place so that it may prove
to sharpen (a cutting blade) by grinding or honing the angle adjacent to the cutting edge
to displace alternate teeth of (a saw) to opposite sides of the blade in order to increase the cutting efficiency
to sink (the head of a nail) below the surface surrounding it by using a nail set
(computing) to give (a binary circuit) the value 1
(of plants) to produce (fruits, seeds, etc) after pollination or (of fruits or seeds) to develop after pollination
to plant (seeds, seedlings, etc)
to place (a hen) on (eggs) for the purpose of incubation
(intransitive) (of a gun dog) to turn in the direction of game, indicating its presence
(Scot & Irish) to let or lease: to set a house
(bridge) to defeat (one’s opponents) in their attempt to make a contract
a dialect word for sit
set eyes on, to see
the act of setting or the state of being set
a condition of firmness or hardness
bearing, carriage, or posture: the set of a gun dog when pointing
the fit or hang of a garment, esp when worn
the scenery and other props used in and identifying the location of a stage or television production, film, etc
(printing) Also called set width

the width of the body of a piece of type
the width of the lines of type in a page or column


the cut of the sails or the arrangement of the sails, spars, rigging, etc, of a vessel
the direction from which a wind is blowing or towards which a tide or current is moving

(psychol) a temporary bias disposing an organism to react to a stimulus in one way rather than in others
a seedling, cutting, or similar part that is ready for planting: onion sets
a blacksmith’s tool with a short head similar to a cold chisel set transversely onto a handle and used, when struck with a hammer, for cutting off lengths of iron bars
See nail set
the direction of flow of water
a mechanical distortion of shape or alignment, such as a bend in a piece of metal
the penetration of a driven pile for each blow of the drop hammer
a variant spelling of sett
fixed or established by authority or agreement: set hours of work
(usually postpositive) rigid or inflexible: she is set in her ways
unmoving; fixed: a set expression on his face
conventional, artificial, or stereotyped, rather than spontaneous: she made her apology in set phrases
(postpositive; foll by on or upon) resolute in intention: he is set upon marrying
(of a book, etc) prescribed for students’ preparation for an examination
a number of objects or people grouped or belonging together, often forming a unit or having certain features or characteristics in common: a set of coins, John is in the top set for maths
a group of people who associate together, esp a clique: he’s part of the jet set
(maths, logic)

Also called class. a collection of numbers, objects, etc, that is treated as an entity: 3, the moon is the set the two members of which are the number 3 and the moon
(in some formulations) a class that can itself be a member of other classes

any apparatus that receives or transmits television or radio signals
(tennis, squash, badminton) one of the units of a match, in tennis one in which one player or pair of players must win at least six games: Graf lost the first set

the number of couples required for a formation dance
a series of figures that make up a formation dance

a band’s or performer’s concert repertoire on a given occasion: the set included no new numbers
a continuous performance: the Who played two sets

verb sets, setting, set
(intransitive) (in square dancing and country dancing) to perform a sequence of steps while facing towards another dancer: set to your partners
(usually transitive) to divide into sets: in this school we set our older pupils for English

Old English settan (transitive) “cause to sit, put in some place, fix firmly; build, found; appoint, assign,” from Proto-Germanic *(bi)satjan “to cause to sit, set” (cf. Old Norse setja, Swedish sätta, Old Saxon settian, Old Frisian setta, Dutch zetten, German setzen, Gothic satjan), causative form of PIE *sod-, variant of *sed- “to sit” (see sit (v.)). Also cf. set (n.2).

Intransitive sense from c.1200, “be seated.” Used in many disparate senses by Middle English; sense of “make or cause to do, act, or be; start” and that of “mount a gemstone” attested by mid-13c. Confused with sit since early 14c. Of the sun, moon, etc., “to go down,” recorded from c.1300, perhaps from similar use of the cognates in Scandinavian languages. To set (something) on “incite to attack” (c.1300) originally was in reference to hounds and game.

“fixed,” c.1200, sett, past participle of setten “to set” (see set (v.)). Meaning “ready, prepared” first recorded 1844.

“collection of things,” mid-15c., from Old French sette “sequence,” variant of secte “religious community,” from Medieval Latin secta “retinue,” from Latin secta “a following” (see sect). “[I]n subsequent developments of meaning influenced by SET v.1 and apprehended as equivalent to ‘number set together'” [OED]. The noun set was in Middle English, but only in the sense of “religious sect” (late 14c.), which likely is the direct source of some modern meanings, e.g. “group of persons with shared status, habits, etc.” (1680s).

Meaning “complete collection of pieces” is from 1680s. Meaning “group of pieces musicians perform at a club during 45 minutes” (more or less) is from c.1925, though it is found in a similar sense in 1580s. Set piece is from 1846 as “grouping of people in a work of visual art;” from 1932 in reference to literary works.

“act of setting; condition of being set” (of a heavenly body), mid-14c., from set (v.) or its identical past participle. Many disparate senses collect under this word because of the far-flung meanings assigned to the verb:

“Action of hardening,” 1837; also “manner or position in which something is set” (1530s), hence “general movement, direction, tendency” (1560s); “build, form” (1610s), hence “bearing, carriage” (1855); “action of fixing the hair in a particular style” (1933).

“Something that has been set” (1510s), hence the use in tennis (1570s) and the theatrical meaning “scenery for an individual scene in a play, etc.,” recorded from 1859. Other meanings OED groups under “miscellaneous technical senses” include “piece of electrical apparatus” (1891, first in telegraphy); “burrow of a badger” (1898). Old English had set “seat,” in plural “camp; stable,” but OED finds it “doubtful whether this survived beyond OE.” Cf. set (n.1).

Set (n.1) and set (n.2) are not always distinguished in dictionaries; OED has them as two entries, Century Dictionary as one. The difference of opinion seems to be whether the set meaning “group, grouping” (here (n.2)) is a borrowing of the unrelated French word that sounds like the native English one, or a borrowing of the sense only, which was absorbed into the English word.

Egyptian god, from Greek Seth, from Egyptian Setesh.

set (sět)
v. set, set·ting, sets

To put in a specified position; place.

To put into a specified state.

To put into a stable position.

To fix firmly or in an immobile manner.

To become fixed or hardened; coagulate.

To bring the bones of a fracture back into a normal position or alignment.


The act or process of setting.

The condition resulting from setting.

A permanent firming or hardening of a substance.

The carriage or bearing of a part of the body.

A particular psychological state, usually of anticipation or preparedness.

A collection of distinct elements that have something in common. In mathematics, sets are commonly represented by enclosing the members of a set in curly braces, as {1, 2, 3, 4, 5}, the set of all positive integers from 1 to 5.


Ready; prepared: We were all set to go (1844+)


The group of pieces musicians perform during about a 45-minute period at a club, show, etc: Clarinetist Scott opened his set (1590+)
An improvisatory musical interchange of about half an hour (1960s+ Jazz musicians)
A small party or friendly conversational gathering; scene: Don’t stop belly rubbing just because we showed on the set (1960s+ Black & jazz talk)
A discussion; rap: He never said get those Panthers out all through the whole set (1960s+ Black)
A narcotic dose of two Seconals2 and one amphetamine (1960s+ Narcotics)
A gang or subgang: Mr Shakur was initiated into the Eight Trays, a ”set” of the Crip gang based in his neighborhood (1990s+ Street gang)

Related Terms

the bubblegum set, the jet set

[first noun sense in modern use since about 1925]
Secure Electronic Transaction
Ready, in position for some action, as in I’m all set to leave the country. This colloquial term uses set in the sense of “put in proper position or order.” The same meaning appears in the traditional Ready, get set, go for starting a race; here set means “in position to start.”

set a precedent
set about
set against
set an example
set apart
set aside
set at
set at rest
set back
set back on one’s heels
set back the clock
set by
set down
set eyes on
set fire to
set foot
set forth
set forward
set in
set in motion
set in one’s ways, be
set off
set on
set on a pedestal
set on fire
set one back
set one back on one’s feet
set one’s back up
set one’s cap for
set one’s face against
set one’s heart on
set one’s mind at rest
set one’s mind on
set one’s seal on
set one’s sights on
set one’s teeth on edge
set out
set right
set sail
set store by
set straight
set the pace
set the record straight
set the scene for
set the table
set the wheels in motion
set the world on fire
set to
set to rights
set tongues wagging
set up
set up housekeeping
set up shop
set upon

also see:

all set
dead set against
get set
get (set) someone’s back up
get (set) the ball rolling
lay (set) eyes on
on a pedestal, set
smart set
tongues wagging, set

also see under:

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