The term originates c. 1870 referring to a machine which jammed up because of excessive heat or friction. It has been used figuratively since c. 1950.
- (figuratively) To stop functioning; to come to a halt.
- Iceland's foreign currency market has seized up after the three largest banks collapsed.
- (of muscles) To stiffen or become tight and difficult to move.
- It was hard to write as my fingers had seized up with the cold weather.
- (of a machine) To stop working suddenly, and become impossible to start again.
- My car seized up this morning. So I had to catch the bus.
- "seize up" in Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Houghton Mifflin Company (1997).