Definition of surveillance in English:

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Pronunciation: /səˈveɪl(ə)ns/
Pronunciation: /səˈveɪəns/


[mass noun]
Close observation, especially of a suspected spy or criminal: he found himself put under surveillance by British military intelligence
More example sentences
  • An unpolitical lad is blackmailed by the police into doing undercover surveillance in a mosque.
  • It is understood police had the suspects under surveillance for weeks before the robbery.
  • For years, undercover surveillance was the domain of warring couples and the old DHSS.
observation, scrutiny, watch, view, inspection, monitoring, supervision, superintendence;
spying, espionage, intelligence, undercover work, infiltration, reconnaissance
informal bugging, wiretapping, phone tapping, recon


Early 19th century: from French, from sur- 'over' + veiller 'watch' (from Latin vigilare 'keep watch').

  • vigil from Middle English:

    Vigil comes from Latin vigilia ‘wakefulness’, from vigil ‘awake’. It was first used for the night before a religious festival, when people might stay wakeful all night in prayer. Related words include vigilant (Late Middle English); vigilance (late 16th century); and vigilante (mid 19th century) adopted from a Spanish word with the literal meaning ‘vigilant’. Surveillance (early 19th century) is from the same root and is literally watching over something, also found when someone invigilates (mid 16th century) an exam.

Words that rhyme with surveillance

bivalence, covalence, valence

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sur|veil¦lance

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