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Language Arts

Sight, Site, Cite

Although the homophones "sight," "site," and "cite" are all pronounced the same, they have different meanings and spellings. This article will define all three and provide tipsfor distinguishing whether to use "sight," "site," or "cite" in a sentence.

The sight of the gorgeous site on which the camp for critically ill children was to be built brought tears to the parents’ eyes, and they were even more moved when the camp director gave her inaugural remarks and cited the poem that had led her to seek this particular location. Distinguishing two words can be tricky enough, but distinguishing three homophones with different spellings, like sight, site, and cite, adds another level of complication. This article will try to help you get them straight.


Sight is a noun, a transitive verb (one that takes an object) an intransitive verb (one that functions without an object), and an adjecive. All of the meanings have to do - directly or indirectly - with vision and the eyes.

The noun sight has nearly a dozen meanings, including literal references to sight: “the eyes’ ability to see,” “the act of seeing,”  “a chance to see,” “something that is seen,” “something worth seeing,” and “a device used to assist vision,” as well as figurative references, such as “the foreseeable future,” “disturbing to look at,” and “under consideration.” Here are examples:

My sight is affected by myopia.

Sight is the sense I most rely on.

I would like the opportunity to sight the Statue of Liberty before we leave New York.

The sight of Peter after so many years was seriously moving.

Our town’s First Night fireworks display is a sight worth seeing.

Put the gun to your shoulder and look through the sight.

Success is within our grasp; our goal is in sight.

I apologize: the house is always  a sight after my grandchildren visit.

Let’s keep our mission statement in sight as we discuss our budget for the coming year.

The transitive verb sight refers to perception with the eyes and the instrument called a sight. Here are examples:

Let me know if you sight our car: there are so many white Subarus in the lot, I’m having trouble locating it.

Next, lift the rifle to your shoulder and sight the target.

The intransitive verb sight also refers to the either the use of the eyes for perception or the use of the optical instrument called a sight to aid the eyes, as in these examples:

Sight towards the big rock.

Sight along the gun barrel.

The adjective sight refers to projects undertaken immediately and without prior consideration, like this:

Mr. Kruger’s aim was that the class would improve their sight reading.

Sight comes from the Old English word gesiht, we refers to the ability to see or the act of seeing. It is pronounced /SITE/.


Site is both a noun and a transitive verb. As a noun, site refers to the location of a building, more generally to anything’s location, and in the world of the Internet, site refers to a virtual construction on the World Wide Web - a web site (also spelled website). Here are sample sentences:

That’s the site of the old Isaac’s Hotel.

Archaeologists are checking the camp site for evidence of an Indian cemetery.

Which web site do you use for your browser’s homepage?

The verb site means “to place or locate on a site.” It can be used like this:

The legislature sited the new penitentiary with great care.

Site comes into Modern English through Middle English and Old French from the Latin word situs, a form of sinere, which means “to allow” or “to leave.” It is pronounced /SITE/.


Cite is a transitive verb. It has three basic meanings: “to mention for support,” which can be a description or a quotation; “to commend or honor”; or “to summon to appear before a court of law. Here are examples:

Elmer cited the poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll.

The twins, Pat and Molly, were cited for bravery.

Madge was cited for a parking violation.

Cite comes into Modern English through Middle English citen, meaning “to summon,” from Old French citer, which comes from the Latin citare,  meaning “to summon” or “to put in motion.” It is pronounced /SITE/.

Distinguishing Sight, Site, and Cite

Here are three connections you can make to help you keep these words separate in your mind. You can connect site with the word situation - a site is where something is situated. You can connect cite with the word citation - to cite a source is to create a citation for it. You can connect sight, with its two internal silent letters gh, to the fact that you can observe these letters with your sight, but you cannot hear them, because they don’t have any sound in this context.

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