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I wonder if there is a certain meaning of 見 that isn't immediately obvious or straight-forward. 見捨てる and 見殺し both carry this idea that, through inaction, something bad is allowed to happen. There may be more that I haven't found, but I'm assuming there is a connection etymologically. It may be simply the idea of sitting back and watching these things happen, which makes sense to me, but I'd like to know if there is more then that.

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見殺し might be similar to 萌え殺し, 飼い殺し, 褒め殺し, 棄て殺し. I think it means 見ることによって、人を殺す, that is, 見る=殺す.

見捨てる might be similar to 見限る, 見切る and 見放す. Maybe, the 見 in these words more or less contains a kind of “passive” or “inactive” feeling, something like 面倒を見ていられないから、しかたなくやめる.

As for the etymology, my hypothesis is 見 might mean “to experience” here. It seems that words meaning “to see” often develop into grammatical voice markers. e.g. “見” is a “passive” marker in Chinese, “相” is a “reciprocal” marker in both Chinese and Japanese (~合う{あう}, 相{あい}~).

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There is no hidden meaning in the 「見」 part of those verbs -- none.

First, not that I think you are mistaken, I want to make sure that we are not discussing the kanji 「見」 here. Instead, we are discussing the 連用形 of the verb 「見る」, which only happens to be 「見」. 連用形 is the form of the verb that comes first in [複合動詞]{ふくごうどうし} , two-verb compound verbs, which words like 見捨てる and 見殺す are called.

In all compound verbs starting with 「見」, that part always has to do with looking, watching or seeing. It also needs be clarified that you just happened to list two compound verbs with negative meanings. Many have neutral and positive meanings.

Here is a sample list of 複合動詞 that start with 「見」, taken from: http://ir.c.chuo-u.ac.jp/repository/search/binary/p/5299/s/3119/

見合う 見飽きる 見上げる 見あたる 見誤る 見合わせる 見出す 見入る 見受ける 見失う 見送る 見落とす 見下ろす 見返す 見限る 見かける 見かねる 見交わす 見切る 見極める 見下す 見くびる 見比べる 見越す 見込む 見下げる 見定める 見知る 見据える   見透かす 見過ごす 見捨てる 見損なう 見初める 見損じる 見出す   見立てる 見違える 見尽くす 見つける 見繕う 見つめる 見積もる   見通す 見とがめる 見とどける 看取る 見とれる 見直す 見習う 見慣れる 見抜く 見逃す 見計らう 見放す 見張る 見間違う 見守る   見回す 見回る 見向く 見破る 見分ける 見渡す 見忘れる

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As you suggested, by adding 見【み】 in 見殺し the implication is that you're standing by and watching it happen (read: not intervening). For 見捨てる【みすてる】 it's more along the lines of "get out of my sight" in English—someone is being cast out.

Since the focus is on etymology and not simply defining things, however, let's take a look at others in this family:

  • 見上げる【みあげる】 - to look up to
  • 見下す【みくだす】 - to look down upon
  • 見交わす【みかわす】 - to exchange glances
  • 見付ける【みつける】 - to discover ("to come into view")
  • 見入る【みいる】 - to fix one's eyes on
  • 見兼ねる【みかねる】 - to be unable to look at something (e.g. without being moved by pity to act)
  • 見出す【みだす】 - to discover (c.f. 見付ける above)
  • 見分ける【みわける】 - to distinguish (to use the eyes to separate)

As we can see, each one slightly modifies the base verb to focus on how the eyes or one's vision is involved. Except for perhaps 出す, 分ける, and 捨てる, it also extends the concept of the base action involved (those three still convey bringing something out into the open, separating into groups, and throwing things away, however the rest of them would not be appropriate to use in the same sentences without the attached 見).

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