Is 'to be seeing things' the same as 'to have visions'?

I did this ngram search to figure out if there's any difference, and it looks like they have a very similar meaning.

(I don't know why the link doesn't work. But if you paste 'I'm seeing things,I have visions' into the ngram search box, you'll get the results.)

'To have visions', though, seems to have more to do with longer events that happen in a different time, either in the future or the past. Also, visions usually have a specific meaning to either the person experiencing them or those who hear about them. They can act as 'messages', so to speak.

'To be seeing things' instead is usually more about nonsensical hallucinations. They are less 'noble' experience, mystically speaking.

I can infer, therefore, that one can belittle someone who's had visions by telling them 'You must have just been seeing things'.

I'd like to know if my understanding is correct.

  • Ngrams doesn't compare their meanings, but frequency of use. They can be unrelated, as the three in the Ngrams prompt. But you can say "You must have just been seeing things" if you don't want to take someone seriously, or don't believe them. Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 22:38

2 Answers 2


"Seeing things" refers to the observation of external objects, real or illusory. "Having visions" is internal, using the minds eye.


I would agree with your interpretation of "visions" usually being somehow meaningful to the person while "seeing things" is not. I would also fully agree with your query about using "just seeing things" to dismiss the whole thing.

Although "just seeing things" can also be used in regard to more prosaic situations, like catching two people alone and believing there must be more going on. In that use it is very akin to "reading too much into it".

  • I wouldn't use 'just seeing things' about that situation. Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 21:52

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