Definition of observe in English:

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Pronunciation: /əbˈzəːv/


[with object]
1Notice or perceive (something) and register it as being significant: [with clause]: she observed that all the chairs were already occupied
More example sentences
  • Arrow of time refers to the capability of distinguishing previous events from subsequent events by observing significant differences between the two events.
  • At this diminished rate of novel sequence discovery, one can expect to observe a significant gain from enrichment procedures.
  • Fisher did not report observing any significant changes in the number of abstinent students in their university-based study.
notice, see, note, perceive, discern, remark, spot, detect, discover, distinguish, make out
literary espy, descry, behold
1.1Watch (someone or something) carefully and attentively: Rob stood in the hallway, from where he could observe the happenings on the street
More example sentences
  • As we filled our plates with warm food, I watched my family observe him carefully, wondering what it was in him that made me like him.
  • You are to watch them carefully and observe them.
  • Some quite inquisitive - and even proprietorial - individuals came close, begging for food and carefully observing us whilst we worked in the water.
watch, see, look at, eye, contemplate, view, survey, regard, witness, keep an eye on, scrutinize, keep under observation, keep watch on, keep under surveillance, monitor, keep under scrutiny, watch like a hawk, keep a weather eye on, spy on, check out, reconnoitre
informal get a load of, keep tabs on, keep a tab on, case, keep a beady eye on
British informal clock, take a dekko/butcher's/gander/shufti at, recce
North American informal eyeball
archaic twig
rare surveil
1.2Take note of or detect (something) in the course of a scientific study: the behaviour observed in groups of chimpanzees
More example sentences
  • Yet we do know from animal behaviour studies that observing animals in zoos and laboratories can be very different from how they behave in their natural environment.
  • In another study, a scientists observed single contrails produced by military jets that were allowed to fly during those days.
  • No flocks consisting of more than three mated pairs were observed in the study area over the course of the two-year study period.
2 [reporting verb] Make a remark: [with direct speech]: ‘It’s chilly,’ she observed [with clause]: a stockbroker once observed that dealers live and work in hell
More example sentences
  • In his concluding remarks Justice Ahmadi observed that government officials had to follow statute rather than waiting for ministers' orders.
  • In fact, one commentator has observed that we live in the ‘Untied States of America.’
  • He observes that students, once out of college, find it extremely difficult hunting jobs or pursuing further studies.
comment, remark, say, mention, note, declare, announce, state, utter, pronounce, interpose, interject
formal opine
3Fulfil or comply with (a social, legal, ethical, or religious obligation): a tribunal must observe the principles of natural justice
More example sentences
  • Human rights and peremptory norms of international law must be observed, and legal obligations toward third states must be respected.
  • At this early stage, still some time before its product has received marketing clearance or approval, the company must ensure that it observes the legal and regulatory restrictions on what can be said about its device.
  • Devotees must know the position of the sun when observing their religious rituals, and their temples contain an inner sanctum in which burns a perpetual fire.
comply with, abide by, keep, obey, adhere to, conform to, heed, honour, respect, be heedful of, pay attention to, follow, acquiesce in, consent to, accept, defer to, fulfil, stand by
3.1Maintain (silence) in compliance with a rule or custom, or temporarily as a mark of respect: a minute’s silence will be observed
More example sentences
  • Before the game began, a vote of sympathy was passed and a minutes silence was observed as a mark of respect to the late Mrs Fierson who died in Liverpool, England.
  • A minute's silence was observed as a mark of respect on the death of Alfred, brother of Walter.
  • As a mark of respect Carlow County Council observed a minute's silence at their Monday meeting this week.
3.2Perform or take part in (a rite or ceremony): relations gather to observe the funeral rites
More example sentences
  • Muslim rites are generally observed for such ceremonies, which are accompanied by feasting and the signing of the marital agreement by bride and groom.
  • Nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century travelers and missionaries observed Jengu rites along the coast.
  • Jai Krishna assured them all rites had been faithfully observed.
3.3Celebrate or acknowledge (an anniversary): they observed the one-year anniversary of the flood
More example sentences
  • But the Holy Prophet, or his noble companions never observed the birthday or anniversary of any of them.
  • In observing the 65th anniversary of his birth, we celebrate Vadim's life.
  • Racetracks across the United States planned to observe the one-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Wednesday.
participate in, partake in, be present at, celebrate, keep;
commemorate, solemnize, mark, memorialize, remember, recognize


Late Middle English (in sense 3): from Old French observer, from Latin observare 'to watch', from ob- 'towards' + servare 'attend to, look at'.

  • conserve from Late Middle English:

    This comes via French from Latin conservare ‘to preserve’, the elements of which are con- ‘together’ and servare ‘to keep’. Conservatory (mid 16th century) was originally ‘something that preserves’, with the sense glass house dating from the mid 17th century. Other words from servare are preserve (Late Middle English) from prae ‘in advance’ and servare; observe (Late Middle English) with ob ‘toward’ with the sense ‘pay attention to’; and reserve (Middle English) ‘keep back’.

Words that rhyme with observe

conserve, curve, Deneuve, derv, hors d'oeuvre, nerve, roman-fleuve, serve, subserve, swerve, verve

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ob|serve

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