Definition of watch in English:

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Pronunciation: /wäCH/
Pronunciation: /wôCH/


1 [with object] Look at or observe attentively, typically 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, keep an eye on;
inspect, scrutinize, scan, examine, study, ogle, gawk at, regard, mark
informal check out, get a load of, eyeball
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 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 in sight, track, monitor, survey, follow, keep under surveillance, surveil
informal keep tabs on, stake out
look after, mind, keep an eye on, take care of, supervise, tend, attend to;
guard, safeguard, protect, babysit
guard, protect, shield, defend, safeguard;
cover, patrol, police
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.
1.4Exercise 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, mind, be aware of, pay attention to, consider, pay heed to
1.5 [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.
1.6 [no object, usually in imperative] (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.
1.7 (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
2 [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.
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;
wristwatch, pocket 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 of vigil during which a person is stationed to look out for danger or trouble, typically during the 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.
Example sentences
  • He glanced at his wrist chrono and saw that it was already about an hour into the next watch.
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.
2.4 (usually 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.
2.5A body of soldiers making up a guard.
Example sentences
  • After a dinner of smoked salmon most of the watch enjoyed a quiet night, despite the contingency plans for millennium meltdown.



be on the watch

Be carefully looking out for something, especially a possible danger.
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.
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;
observation, surveillance, vigilance

watch one's mouth

see mouth.

watch one's (or someone's) back

Protect oneself (or someone else) against danger from an unexpected source: Because the industry is largely unregulated, you need to watch your back Be careful, Ian. I’ll watch your back

the watches of the night

literary The hours of night, portrayed as a time when one cannot sleep.
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 (one's) pennies

see penny.

watch one's step

Used as a warning to someone to walk or act carefully.
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.


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

Syllabification: watch

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