See, behold, descry, espy, view, survey, contemplate, observe, notice, remark, note, perceive, discern can all mean to take cognizance of something by physical or sometimes mental vision.
See, the most general of these terms, may be used to imply little more than the use of the organs of vision, but more commonly it implies a recognition or appreciation of what is before one’s eyes.
The term may imply the exercise of other powers than the sense of sight, including a vivid imagination or mental insight or powers of inference.
Behold carries a stronger implication of a definite ocular impression and of distinct recognition than see; it also suggests looking at what is seen.
Descry and espy imply a seeing in spite of difficulties (as distance, darkness, or partial concealment).
Descry often suggests an effort to discover or a looking out for someone or something, but espy usually implies skill in detection (as of what is small, or not clearly within the range of vision, or is trying to escape detection).
View and survey, on the contrary, imply the seeing of what is spread before one or what one can examine steadily or in detail. Both terms as often imply mental consideration as a physical seeing or looking over.
View usually implies or requires a statement of a particular way of looking at a thing or a particular purpose in considering it.
Survey more often implies a detailed scrutiny or inspection by the eyes or the mind so that one has a picture or idea of something as a whole.
Contemplate (see also CONSIDER 1 ) implies little more than a fixing of the eyes upon something, sometimes in abstraction, but more often in enjoyment or in reference to some end in view.
Observe and notice both imply a heeding and not passing over; they commonly imply seeing but may suggest the use of another sense.
Especially in scientific use observe may carry a stronger implication of directed attention.
Notice often implies some definite reaction to what is seen or sometimes heard, felt, or sensed such as making a mental note of it or a remark about it or, if what is noticed is a person, recognizing him by a salute or a greeting.
Remark (see also REMARK ) and note carry an even stronger implication than notice of registering mentally one’s impression.
But remark is more likely to suggest a judging or criticizing of what is noticed and note to suggest a recording, sometimes by a mental note, but sometimes in writing or in speech.
Perceive carries a stronger implication of the use of the mind in observation than any of the preceding terms. The word basically implies apprehension or obtaining knowledge of a thing, not only through the sense of sight but through any of the senses. It is often used in place of see in the simple sense of that word, but since it always implies distinct recognition of what is seen, the words are sometimes used in contrast, especially by psychologists.
In its richer meaning perceive suggests not only dependence on other senses than that of sight but also usually keen mental vision or special insight and penetration.
Discern, like descry, often implies little more than a making out of something by means of the eyes. In its more distinctive use the term usually implies the powers of deeply perceiving and of distinguishing or discriminating what the senses perceive.