Definition of watch in English:

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Pronunciation: /wɒtʃ/


1 [with object] Look at or observe attentively over a period of time: Lucy watched him go [no object]: as she watched, two women came into the garden [with clause]: everyone stopped to watch what was going on
More example sentences
  • For a brief moment all the fighting stopped as everyone watched one of the infantry barracks go up in a great ball of fire.
  • As soon as they reached a safe place to stand, everyone stopped and watched her.
  • In that 13-second time span, people just watched to see which one will become victorious.
observe, view, look at, eye, gaze at, stare at, gape at, peer at;
contemplate, survey, feast one's eyes on, watch like a hawk, keep a weather eye on;
inspect, scrutinize, scan, examine, study, take in, take stock of, glance at;
see, notice, spot, glimpse, spy, catch sight of, lay one's eyes on, perceive, witness;
ogle, leer at, make eyes at;
pay attention to, regard, attend, take note of, mark
informal check out, get a load of, recce, eyeball, not take one's eyes off
British informal take a dekko at, take a butcher's at
literary behold
1.1Keep under careful, protective, or secret observation: there aren’t enough staff to watch him properly he told me my telephones were tapped and that I was being watched
More example sentences
  • All the inmates had to be protected and watched over, and any problems that arose would have to be sorted out at once.
  • I know they were there for my own protection, but I was sick of being watched over.
  • She felt she knew him, knew him intimately, that he personally protected her and watched over her.
spy on, keep watch on, keep an eye on, keep in sight, keep track of, track, monitor, survey, follow, keep under observation, keep under surveillance
informal keep tabs on, keep a beady eye on, stake out
rare surveil
look after, mind, take care of, care for, supervise, superintend, tend, attend to, minister to, foster, nurse, guard, safeguard, protect
informal keep an eye on
guard, stand guard over, keep guard on, protect, shield, preserve, defend, safeguard, screen, shelter;
cover, patrol, police, picket, keep a lookout at
1.2 [no object] (watch over) Observe and guard in a protective way: I guess I can rest a while, with you here to watch over me
1.3Follow closely or maintain an interest in: the girls watched the development of this relationship with incredulity
More example sentences
  • Members of the anti-war movement should be watching these developments closely.
  • A spokesman said it was watching developments with interest.
  • Big food firms are watching developments with keen interest.
2 [with object] Exercise care, caution, or restraint about: most women watch their diet during pregnancy [with clause]: you should watch what you say!
More example sentences
  • There aren't many people who have extra weight that workout/exercise regularly and watch their intake.
  • If you start watching your diet along with exercising, you're sure to see changes in your figure.
  • She kept her body slim and healthy with regular exercise and watching the amount of food she ate.
be careful about/of, exercise care/caution/restraint about;
be aware of, pay attention to, consider, take into account/consideration, bear in mind, keep in mind;
mind, attend to, pay heed to
2.1 [no object] (watch for) Look out or be on the alert for: in spring and summer, watch for kingfishers watch out for broken glass
More example sentences
  • Her function at the time would be to watch for the target and alert her master when he arrived.
  • Driver fatigue can occur on short trips too so be alert and watch for signs of tiredness.
  • I'd wait patiently, watching for a movement that would allow me to get it in my binoculars.
look out for, wait for, await, stand by for, hold back for;
anticipate, expect
informal keep an eye open for
2.2 [no object, usually in imperative] (usually watch out) Be careful: credit-card fraud is on the increase, so watch out
More example sentences
  • They have to watch out and be really careful.
  • But he warned pranksters to watch out as the fire service was taking action to cut figures by a further five per cent each year.
  • During one such meeting, the residents are warned that their house servants may be spies and to watch out.
2.3 (watch it/yourself) [usually in imperative] informal Be careful (used as a warning or threat): if anyone finds out, you’re dead meat, so watch it
3 [no object] archaic Remain awake for the purpose of religious observance: she watched whole nights in the church


1A small timepiece worn typically on a strap on one’s wrist: my watch had stopped
More example sentences
  • Digital alarm clocks and watches operate weirdly and are often indecipherable.
  • Today we calibrate our watches with atomic clocks, but back then there was no timepiece more reliable than the rotating Earth itself.
  • Later, though, they curse me for being delayed in clocking out when the watches on their wrists clearly show it is time to go.
timepiece, chronometer, small clock, timer;
wristwatch, pocket watch, fob watch, digital watch, stopwatch
2 [usually in singular] An act or instance of carefully observing someone or something over a period of time: the security forces have been keeping a close watch on our activities
More example sentences
  • I want to raise one or two other things just as examples to assure the House that I have been keeping a close watch on its concerns.
  • The international community will be keeping a close watch on the results.
  • He must know that the police are keeping a close watch on the area.
2.1A period during which a person is stationed to look out for danger or trouble, typically at night: Murray took the last watch before dawn
More example sentences
  • He blinked, his foggy vision slowly clearing, and stood, realizing that the last watch of the night was over, and the king was awake.
  • During the first watch of the night he acquired the power to look back through his previous existences, recalling them in full detail.
  • Both of them would take a watch during the night, and would report anything strange to her at once.
2.2A fixed period of duty on a ship, usually lasting four hours: sea air, lots of exercise, and four-hour watches give everyone a healthy appetite
More example sentences
  • He glanced at his wrist chrono and saw that it was already about an hour into the next watch.
shift, stint, spell, stretch, turn
2.3 (also starboard or port watch) The officers and crew on duty during a watch.
Example sentences
  • I believe the steward is about to call the starboard watch to lunch, sir.
2.4A shift worked by firefighters or police officers: the men of Red Watch at Kingsland Fire Station
More example sentences
  • Firefighters of blue watch at Sheffield Central fire station line up in front of one of their fire appliances.
2.5 (the watch) historical A watchman or group of watchmen who patrolled and guarded the streets of a town before the introduction of the police force: the woman, with a piercing shriek, called the watch
3 [in singular with adjective] informal A film or programme considered in terms of its appeal to the public: this movie’s an engrossing watch
More example sentences
  • This film is a demanding watch, with a run time of just over two hours.
  • The two earlier titles are a better watch than that film and Hours has its own not-too-stylish dark charm.
  • In the end, the strength of the performances sustains interest sufficiently to make it a worthwhile watch.
4 rare A flock of nightingales: a watch of nightingales began flying south
More example sentences
  • A habitat for a watch of nightingales could be created in Essex.



be on the watch

Be on the alert for something, especially a possible danger: he was already on the watch for any more suspicious moves
More example sentences
  • We also ask our church members and sympathetic local people to be on the watch for anything or anyone suspicious.
  • If they had not been on the watch for raiders, they would have had time to find it beautiful.
  • These two new studies point to the need for parents and pediatricians to be on the watch for what might appear to be less serious breathing problems in their babies and young children when they sleep.

keep watch

Stay on the lookout for danger or trouble: at the mouth of the stream, two young sentries kept watch
More example sentences
  • Wily lookouts kept watch for German guards, calling out codewords as a warning.
  • Some men stayed at the door keeping watch for Kane.
  • Uniformed guards called safer travel officers are keeping watch for trouble-makers.
guard, vigil, lookout, an eye;
observance, observation, surveillance, vigilance, view, notice

watch one's (or someone's) back

Protect oneself (or someone else) against danger from an unexpected quarter: life’s too short to have to watch your back all the time I’ll watch your back at this end—you can count on me

watch one's mouth

see mouth.

the watches of the night

literary The hours of night, portrayed as a time when one cannot sleep: the long, silent watches of the night
More example sentences
  • Both the Bible and the ‘Boy Who Lived’ proved good company during the watches of the night.
  • If we should go into all that occupied our friend in the watches of the night we should have to mend our pen; but an instance or two may mark for us the vividness with which he could remember.
  • In the watches of the night, the surface lure is well worth a try.

watch the pennies

see penny.

watch one's step

see step.
Example sentences
  • Men in politics also have to watch their step.
  • In the end, Hunter warns the Hollywood hacks to watch their step.
  • It's best to watch your step now, Mike.

watch this space

see space.

watch the time

Ensure that one is aware of the time in order to avoid being late.
Example sentences
  • Well, I know in the world we have to watch the time and be aware of what's going on and schedule our lives, but time is excruciating pain when you're waiting and hoping for answers.
  • She talks about continually watching the time to ensure that they are home by 7pm.
  • I have to watch the time closely, though, so I don't get too involved in what I'm watching and loose track of time.

watch the world go by

Spend time observing other people going about their business: I love sitting here and watching the world go by
More example sentences
  • The only shame was that we had to go back to work, and couldn't spend all afternoon watching the world go by, from the comfort of the leather sofa!
  • How much of the woman's life was spent on that chair watching the world go by?
  • Normally, in this situation, I enjoy just sitting, watching the world go by.


Old English wæcce 'watchfulness', wæccende 'remaining awake'; related to wake1. The sense 'small timepiece' probably developed by way of a sense 'alarm device attached to a clock'.

  • In Old English watch meant ‘to be or remain awake’, and it is from the same root as wake (Old English) and awake (Old English). The connection with timepieces arose because in the 15th century the first watches were alarm clocks of some kind, whose function was to wake you up. The watches of the night are the hours of night, especially as a time when you cannot sleep. This watch was one of the periods into which the night was divided for the purposes of guard duty. The link with insomnia first appears in the writings of Sir Walter Scott, who wrote in his journal for January 1826: ‘The watches of the night pass wearily when disturbed by fruitless regrets.’

Words that rhyme with watch

blotch, botch, crotch, notch, outwatch, scotch, splotch, swatch, topnotch

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: watch

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