Vision is often portrayed as the most important sense (somtimes debateably) for humans, so it’s understandable that there is a lot of language connected with sight and our eyes.
We have three key verbs for sight in English: see, the simple act of noticing something with the eyes; look, a more deliberate act often when that which is being sought is not immediately in sight; and watch, which implies a period of time. There are of course a number of others: glance, to look quickly; stare, to look in one direction for a long time; glare, to look with anger; glimpse, to see breifly often without intent; etc.
However, it is typically more idiomatic uses that cause confusion, so here are a few phrases conected with sight/eyes etc.
An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth references the Bible (specifically Exodus 21:24 although it is referenced in later books as well), this is often used to mean someone who causes an offence should receive the same damage or provide equivalent compensation. Don’t confuse this one with to see eye to eye with someone, if you see eye to eye you understand each other well.
“Tom and Mary see eye to eye on the new development project.”
Visionary, if someone is a visionary in their field it means they are looking to the future and have clear plans, not necessarily that they have supernatural insight. Peter Higgs, was on the radio this morning, he got The Nobel Prize for being visionary.
To be up to your eyes in something, often work means that you have a lot of that something.
“Mark is up to his eyes in trouble; his practical jokes have really gone too far this time”
To keep your eye on the ball, (or to take your eye off the ball), coming from sports this could have come up a couple of weeks ago. Figuratively, if a task needs close attention then you need to keep your eye on the ball, if something goes wrong and you weren’t paying attention then you took your eye off the ball. It can also be used to describe someone who is very sharp witted and can respond to situations quickly and well.
“Susan really has her eye on the ball; I hope she gets that promotion.”
To have 20/20 vison, 20/20 vision is ‘perfect eyesight’ (some people have even better) this means that the person does not need glasses/contacts etc. Figuratively, this means that the person in question is alert and informed in the area/topic.
To lay eyes on something means to see it often for the first time, or when you expect not to see that person/thing again.
“David has really blown it this time; I’m going to let him know as soon as I lay eyes on him.”
To eyeball something/someone, this means to evaluate something by sight, but fairly quickly so the observation may not be reliable/exact depending on the situation.
“I eyeballed that new restaurant, it looks really nice. Should we go there for dinner sometime?”
In this situation you probably know what kind of food it serves, and the rough price range but would not be expected to recall details.
To give something the hairy eyeball means to look quizzically or critically at it, often out of displeasure/disapproval.
“Joan gave me the hairy eyeball when I went to work in my Halloween costume last year… I won’t do that again”
Give it a butcher’s comes from cockney rhyming slang. Butcher’s hook = look, this is often used these days to mean a quick look.
“I gave the flat near the University a butcher’s… but I knew it was out of my price range, and I’d have to commute again this term.”
To look over something, means to check to make sure that the thing being looked over is correct, in the right condition etc.
“Make sure you look over your work for spelling, Professor Green is really a stickler for accuracy.”
Don’t confuse this one with to overlook, which can have a couple of meanings:
“My new house overlooks the park.” = means that the park can be seen from the house but it can also mean to ignore something “I’ve overlooked your lateness twice this week… is everything ok?”
A watched pot… never boils as the saying goes. When you are waiting for something it always seems to take longer if you are focused on the waiting.
A clock-watcher isn’t someone who carries a clock around instead of a watch.
Rather they are someone who keeps a very close eye on the time and thinks that punctuality is very important.
“Clock-watchers may always be at their desks by 9 but they are usually gone by 5:30 we’re looking for someone a bit more committed.”
To lose sight of something/someone, in a literal sense this means you can’t see them anymore but figuratively this can mean to ignore/neglect/forget about something important.
“I know you’re studying for the quiz next week but don’t lose sight of the essay. It’s worth twice as many marks.”