seeing is believing: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘seeing is believing’ mean?

The idiom "seeing is believing" means that someone is more likely to believe something when they see it with their own eyes, rather than simply hearing about it or being told about it by someone else.

Idiom Explorer


The idiom "seeing is believing" is a widely known expression in the English language. It emphasizes the importance of firsthand experience or visual evidence in order to fully believe or understand something. This sentiment is captured in idioms such as "believe one's eyes," "see for oneself," and "what you see is what you get."

The phrase "seeing is believing" dates back to at least the 17th century, although its exact origins are unclear. It is often attributed to the philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas, who stated that "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible." This idea reinforces the notion that visual evidence is often the most persuasive and convincing.

One related idiom is "believe one's eyes." This idiom expresses the idea that seeing something with one's own eyes is the only way to truly believe it. It highlights the importance of firsthand experience and visual confirmation in forming beliefs. This idiom is often used when someone is surprised or amazed by something and expresses their disbelief by saying "I can't believe my eyes!"

Another related idiom is "see for oneself." This idiom reinforces the idea that firsthand experience is necessary to truly understand or believe something. It suggests that one should not rely solely on the accounts or descriptions of others, but rather experience it firsthand. This idiom is often used when someone is encouraged to personally witness something in order to gain a deeper understanding.

The idiom "what you see is what you get" is also related to the idea that seeing is believing. It emphasizes the importance of trusting one's own observations and perceptions. This idiom suggests that there are no hidden meanings or deceptive appearances, and that what is seen is an accurate representation of reality. It is often used when referring to someone who is genuine, transparent, and true to themselves.

Seeing is believing, but perception can be deceiving.

Throughout history, the idiom "seeing is believing" has been used in a variety of contexts. In religious texts, it has been used to emphasize the importance of experiencing spiritual truths firsthand. For example, in the New Testament of the Bible, John 20:29 states, "Jesus said to him, 'Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" This passage highlights the idea that faith goes beyond what can be seen with the naked eye.

The idiom "seeing is believing" is also commonly used in everyday conversations, often in a more literal sense. It is often employed when someone is skeptical of a claim or assertion, and they express the need to witness tangible evidence in order to be convinced. For instance, if someone claims to have witnessed a supernatural event, another person might respond with "I'll believe it when I see it," indicating their doubt and the need for visual confirmation.

Furthermore, the idiom has also been utilized in various fields such as science, journalism, and marketing. In scientific research, it emphasizes the importance of empirical evidence and the necessity of conducting experiments to validate theories. In the words of Albert Einstein, "The only source of knowledge is experience." This quote encapsulates the idea that seeing is believing in the scientific realm.

In journalism, the idiom underscores the significance of conducting fact-checking and verifying sources before publishing stories. Journalists are often required to provide visual evidence or eyewitness testimonies to support their claims. This ensures that their readers can see and believe the information presented. As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

In the field of marketing, the idiom "seeing is believing" serves as a reminder that consumers often rely on visual cues to make informed purchasing decisions. Product demonstrations, customer testimonials, and visuals showcasing the features and benefits of a product or service can influence a consumer's perception and ultimately their purchasing choice. Marketers understand that showing consumers what they will get is more effective than simply telling them.

The idiom "seeing is believing" has a rich history and diverse usage across different contexts. Whether in religion, everyday conversations, or professional fields, the phrase highlights the idea that firsthand experience or visual evidence is often crucial for true belief or understanding. It encourages individuals to trust their own observations and perceptions, rather than relying solely on the accounts or descriptions of others. While it may seem like a simple idiom, "seeing is believing" opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to examining the ways in which we perceive and interpret the world around us.

Example usage


  1. After hearing about the new roller coaster, I was skeptical, but seeing is believing and once I rode it myself, I understood why everyone loved it.

  2. My friends told me that the sunset at the beach was breathtaking, but seeing is believing, and when I saw the vibrant colors in the sky, I was truly amazed.

  3. I couldn't believe my friend caught a fish that was three feet long, but seeing is believing, and when he showed me the photo as proof, I was blown away.

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