Word Confusion: Seam versus Seem

Posted November 6, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

T’would seem more seemly if thou writers may write without seam to mar thy words.

In other words, it would look better if your words flowed well. And one way to help this along is to be aware of word confusions such as the noun/verb seam and the verb-only seem.

One would never seem two pieces of fabric (or pipe) together. Nor would it seam possible in any way to seemingly appear well-written. Well, unless you flipped the seem and seam about. Then your work would seem without seam.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Seam Seem
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: seam, seem

A line of lead pipe showing the folded seam

“Lead Pipe in Roman Baths” by Andrew Dunn, 15 September 2005, is under the CC-BY-2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

The seam that has been folded over twice is easily seen.

A long-legged woman in black knee-high boots, tights, and a short dress is standing on an old dock with storm clouds in the background

“The Words Never Seem to Come” by Vanity ♪ is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via VisualHunt

Does she seem tall to you?

Part of Grammar:
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: seams
Past tense or past participle: seamed
Gerund or present participle: seaming

Verb, intransitive

Third person present verb: seems
Past tense or past participle: seemed
Gerund or present participle: seeming

[Sewing] A line along which two pieces of fabric are sewn together in a garment or other article

  • A line where the edges of two pieces of wood, wallpaper, or another material touch each other
  • A long thin indentation or scar

[Mining] An underground layer, as of ore or coal

[Cricket] Of or relating to a style of bowling in which the bowler utilizes the stitched seam round the ball in order to make it swing in flight and after touching the ground

Verb, intransitive:
To become cracked, fissured, or furrowed

  • Make the seam or seams of

[Knitting] To make a line of stitches by purling

Verb, transitive:
Join with a seam or as if with stitches

[Usually as an adjective seamed] Make a long narrow indentation in

To furrow

  • To mark with wrinkles, scars, etc.

[Knitting] To knit with or in a seam

Give the impression or sensation of being something or having a particular quality

  • Used to make a statement or description of one’s thoughts, feelings, or actions less assertive or forceful
  • [Cannot seem to do something] Be unable to do something, despite having tried
  • [It seems or it would seem] Used to suggest in a cautious, guarded, or polite way that something is true, probable, evident, or a fact

To appear to exist

To give the outward appearance of being or to pretend to be

Be sure to sew an even seam.

It’s a good idea to overlap the wallpaper just a touch at the seam.

The task involved clamping the panels into position and arc welding a seam to join them.

It was a face scorched by the sun, fissured with delicate seams.

This seam is running out, boss.

Jenny’s party is bursting out the seams!

In general, most clothing uses a five-eighths-inch seam allowance although knits use a quarter-inch.

The attitude of the airport guard was symptomatic of a system falling apart at the seams.

He’s a wicked seam bowler.

Verb, intransitive:
“There doesn’t seem to be any logic to millennial behavior” (Cracked.com).

Perhaps the disorders that seem most clearly to be ones of happiness or positive mood are hypomania and mania” (Power, 161).
“The good news is that seaming does not involve live stitches and you can try a few stitches and see how it looks” (Knit Purl).

“Pin or baste the seams before final seaming” (Vogue

Verb, transitive:
It can be used for seaming garments.

By middle age, men have seamed faces.

Seam the lining together with a long stitch.

“Most knitters follow this sequence when seaming a garment” (Vogue Knitting).

Does he seem annoyed?

There seems to be plenty to eat.

It seemed that he was determined to oppose her.

I seem to remember giving you very precise instructions.

He couldn’t seem to remember his lines.

It would seem that he has been fooling us all.

She seems better this morning.

It seems to me that someone is calling.

There seems no need to go now.

It seems likely to rain.

He only seems friendly because he wants you to like him.

Adjective: seamfree, seamless
Adverb: seamlessly
Noun: seamer, seamlessness, seamstress, underseam
Adjective: seeming, seemlier, seemliest, seemly
Adverb: seemingly
Noun: seemer, seeming, seemingness, seemliness
History of the Word:
Old English sēam is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch zoom and the German Saum. Middle English (also in the sense of suit, befit, be appropriate) from the Old Norse sœma meaning to honor, from sœmr meaning fitting.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Norman Hartnell Wedding Dress of 1933 Worn by Margaret Whigham Sweeney is Elisa.rolle’s own work under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

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