Definition of observation in US English:



  • 1The action or process of observing something or someone carefully or in order to gain information.

    ‘she was brought into the hospital for observation’
    ‘detailed observations were carried out on the students' behavior’
    • ‘Due to emotional instability, she was sent to the psychiatric ward at the Eastern District hospital for observation.’
    • ‘The very processes of measurement and observation influence the subject and change him.’
    • ‘We use both field experiments and a dynamic game model to examine this counterintuitive observation.’
    • ‘The process of observation is the receipt and recognition of raw information from the environment.’
    • ‘Just like social survey research, structured observation necessitates decisions about sampling.’
    • ‘Lee was to be kept in the hospital for further observation until this afternoon.’
    • ‘Vaccination alone will not control an outbreak without concurrent isolation of cases and monitoring and observation of contacts.’
    • ‘He said that he could not do anything that required detailed observation.’
    • ‘Her companion, who sustained minor injuries, was being kept in overnight for observation in the Mater Hospital.’
    • ‘One can readily accept that sacredness is not determined by the scientific criteria of measurement and analysis of observation.’
    • ‘Declare a gang and gun amnesty to be followed by a three to six-month period of detailed observation and prosecution.’
    • ‘Lighting can be adjusted by dimming when critical observation and monitoring are no longer necessary.’
    • ‘Greek doctors had started to look at the issue of poor health and disease by using a process of reasoning and observation.’
    • ‘In case of missing assessments, we carried forward the last observation.’
    • ‘With nonhuman primates like macaques, the learning process occurs through observation.’
    • ‘Doctors in Bristol fearing a second more serious attack kept him at Great Western Hospital for observation.’
    • ‘Help was on the way in a very short time and the driver and passengers all got attention, and were sent to hospital for observation.’
    • ‘This process of using observation and experiment to refute false theories does not rely on induction in any way.’
    • ‘A daily visit from a health care worker is scarcely the same as the continual observation as hospital staff carry out their duties.’
    • ‘This strange limitation arises because the very process of observation is inseparable from the state being measured.’
    watching, monitoring, scrutiny, examination, inspection, scrutinization, viewing, survey, surveillance, surveying, attention, consideration, study, review
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    1. 1.1 The ability to notice things, especially significant details.
      ‘his powers of observation’
      • ‘It testifies to his powers of observation and imagination and his storytelling abilities.’
      • ‘Sherlock Holmes' reputation rests upon his powers of observation, memory and deduction.’
      • ‘It's the first day of school and my powers of observation alert me to an explicit phenomenon: skin is in.’
      • ‘The camera is a detached observer, and the strength of the film lies in its acute power of observation and detail.’
      • ‘The whole thing is really propelled by your powers of observation and by your ability to shut up and get out of the way.’
      • ‘As well as all that he had such a suave ability to get his own way, such humane and acute powers of observation.’
      • ‘She differed from all the other models I had met in that she didn't take drugs and possessed a talent for shrewd observation.’
      • ‘The magic is in the detail of his observation, revealing more about ingrained attitudes with a sentence than a volume of social studies.’
      • ‘John Donne is among many who have also made this significant observation.’
      • ‘A number of oil sketches from nature in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, reveal his powers of lively observation.’
      • ‘Despite being a medical man, I did not have my friend's amazing power of observation to notice the subtle differences in ears.’
      • ‘The secrets to both skills are patience, observation and attention to detail, he said.’
      • ‘His gift is the power of observation coupled with the unique ability to suffer and survive the better for it.’
      • ‘His powers of observation and description are as fresh and vivid today as they must have seemed to his contemporaries.’
      • ‘Moore suffuses her book with the rich detail and critical observation of a good reporter.’
      • ‘Tombaugh's highly detailed powers of observation led him to discover Pluto in 1930.’
      • ‘Admiring Mr Twain's skills of observation offers scant hope that human race is making any progress.’
      • ‘While in general that's a remarkably perceptive observation, somehow it does not seem to apply to this place.’
      • ‘He was a natural when it came to telling stories and was renowned for his witty expressions and powers of observation.’
      • ‘They had keen observation and reasoning powers, apart from good analytical abilities.’
      attention, awareness, consciousness, perception, cognizance, heed, note
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    2. 1.2 The taking of the altitude of the sun or another celestial body for navigational purposes.
      • ‘For it is the duty of an astronomer to record celestial motions through careful observation.’
  • 2A remark, statement, or comment based on something one has seen, heard, or noticed.

    ‘he made a telling observation about Hugh’
    • ‘The journalist then continued with a remarkable observation on public opinion.’
    • ‘It was a general observation, not one aimed at Johnston.’
    • ‘I excerpted a quote that summed up the point of the piece, followed by an observation based on revelation.’
    • ‘So she wasn't surprised when he countered her obvious statement with an observation of his own.’
    • ‘An appeal can be in the form of a funny question, a witty observation, opinion or comment.’
    • ‘What a funny observation, and as I heard it from other girls I'm not really sure what boys think about it all.’
    • ‘At some risk of attempting to show ancestors how to suck eggs may I offer the following observations?’
    • ‘My observation, based on personal experience, is that some of the things you lose as you approach your third age are no real loss at all.’
    • ‘I would like to make three brief, concluding observations by way of answering this question.’
    • ‘It was more of a quiet observation than a question but Marlo answered anyway.’
    • ‘Just an observation: anybody else notice how many big brothers we have out there these days?’
    • ‘That is the first point I raise as a general observation and comment.’
    • ‘In response his son made an observation and asked a question that surprised the Shopkeeper very much indeed.’
    • ‘In addressing this bill, I have to make the observation that we have heard it all now.’
    • ‘Having often done so, I offer the following observations about the Foss Islands site.’
    • ‘Morris's criticisms and observations in two reports could not be more serious.’
    • ‘In these observations you get criticized if you open your mouth at all.’
    • ‘It left his assistant Andy Watson to offer his observations on the game.’
    • ‘The important issue that arises is how best to conduct this battle, and a general observation upon it seems in order.’
    • ‘There were, however, a number of more general observations in the judgment which we ought to note.’
    remark, comment, statement, utterance, pronouncement, declaration
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  • under observation

    • (especially of a patient or a suspected criminal) being closely and constantly watched or monitored.

      ‘he spent two nights in the hospital under observation’
      • ‘Passengers must pass through a metal detector and are under observation by Jamaican Constabulary Police Force narcotics officers.’
      • ‘A new boss has Michael under observation, Kimberley's contract wasn't renewed - and me, I've moved on to a great new job.’
      • ‘She had arrived from Malaysia via Singapore and is under observation at a hospital in Sao Paulo.’
      • ‘They have been under observation by security for a year, and in January the main fundamentalist party had complained about them in parliament.’
      • ‘It seemed that Earth was constantly under observation.’
      • ‘For one, my grandma is in hospital for at least the coming week, under observation while attempts are made to stabilise her body's response to diabetes.’
      • ‘One obstacle is that doctors cannot definitively diagnose sleep apnea unless the patient spends a night under observation in a sleep lab.’
      • ‘The macaque is now recuperating in the zoo hospital and will be under observation for a week or so.’
      • ‘Clearly she had no notion she was under observation.’
      • ‘She was kept in the acute patients' ward under observation.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘respectful adherence to the requirements of rules or ritual’): from Latin observatio(n-), from the verb observare (see observe).