Definition of watch in US English:



  • 1with 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’
    • ‘I watch with thinly veiled amusement as he insistently taps her on the shoulder.’
    • ‘Ian and Craig just watched in horror, unable to comprehend what was going on.’
    • ‘As they watched in silence, a pillow suddenly hit Chasity in the face.’
    • ‘My dad and I used to watch the sunrise everyday.’
    • ‘He watched in fascination as Nero, broken and bandaged, did the same.’
    • ‘The crowd then watched in amazement as he freed himself in six and a half minutes.’
    • ‘In that 13-second time span, people just watched to see which one will become victorious.’
    • ‘Lying on the couch watching television, Denise's cordless phone began to ring.’
    • ‘He dodged, and then watched in amazement as it bounced off a tree but did not shatter.’
    • ‘As soon as they reached a safe place to stand, everyone stopped and watched her.’
    • ‘Flowers and wooden curios were thrown onto bonfires as their owners watched in disbelief.’
    • ‘People just watched all the things I was taking out of my basket.’
    • ‘Serena and I both pulled back, startled, and then watched in awe as they both started laughing.’
    • ‘The red haired boy was watching in amused silence, and I poked him.’
    • ‘Greg moved back, watching intently to see what could happen.’
    • ‘We all watched helplessly as the beast flew above us.’
    • ‘The match was watched by a crowd of 5,090 and an Oldham player was sent off in the second half.’
    • ‘For a brief moment all the fighting stopped as everyone watched one of the infantry barracks go up in a great ball of fire.’
    • ‘She was intently watching the television with a broad grin spread across her lively face.’
    • ‘They were sitting side by side on her couch watching reruns of an old show.’
    observe, view, look at, eye, gaze at, stare at, gape at, peer at
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Keep 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’
      • ‘I watched over her during the long hours of silence in the day, as she lay in bed, moving only when the pain made her seek a fresh position to attempt to relieve it.’
      • ‘Bicycles are parked in special areas which are watched over by attendants, so your bike doesn't get nicked.’
      • ‘You will probably be assisted on your trip around Libya by a guide and/or a driver and possibly watched over by a man from security.’
      • ‘A third robber, carrying a firearm, watched over him while the others continued the raid.’
      • ‘The staff did their job down to the final detail, as their supervisor watched over them like a warden on an inmate.’
      • ‘Infants are watched over constantly by their parents, who often take them to the tasks in which they are engaged.’
      • ‘All the inmates had to be protected and watched over, and any problems that arose would have to be sorted out at once.’
      • ‘She felt she knew him, knew him intimately, that he personally protected her and watched over her.’
      • ‘The box, which appeared to be designed for air freight, was also watched over by a uniformed guard.’
      • ‘The large swimming pool on the podium roof is watched over by attendants who anticipate your every whim.’
      • ‘Lydia has taken over the bed and is watched over by Eleanor and Libbie.’
      • ‘But this was a public Internet bar that is possibly watched over by Internet security officers.’
      • ‘They were watched over by several hundred police officers, but no incidents were reported.’
      • ‘Richard, the owner, is on patrol duty and he watches the women protectively.’
      • ‘In her youth, Elizabeth had been watched over by her tyrannical father.’
      • ‘I know they were there for my own protection, but I was sick of being watched over.’
      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
      look after, mind, take care of, care for, supervise, superintend, tend, attend to, minister to, foster, nurse, guard, safeguard, protect
      guard, stand guard over, keep guard on, protect, shield, preserve, defend, safeguard, screen, shelter
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2watch overno object Observe and guard in a protective way.
      ‘I guess I can rest a while, with you here to watch over me’
    3. 1.3 Follow closely or maintain an interest in.
      ‘the girls watched the development of this relationship with incredulity’
      • ‘Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, is watching events with particular interest.’
      • ‘And I'm watching very closely to see if that's a real worry.’
      • ‘Quebec First Nation leaders were watching the court decision closely, as were leaders across the country.’
      • ‘Members of the anti-war movement should be watching these developments closely.’
      • ‘A spokesman said it was watching developments with interest.’
      • ‘So they will be watching very closely what the United States and other parties do.’
      • ‘No doubt other schools will be watching the results with interest.’
      • ‘The developments in Germany are closely watched by experts in the Netherlands.’
      • ‘The South African government is watching developments in Zimbabwe closely.’
      • ‘So news of his consultations with the Chinese leadership was closely watched.’
      • ‘We will be watching them very closely as we value our green open land and believe this could be phase two of the development.’
      • ‘People all over the world are closely watching what is happening.’
      • ‘Big food firms are watching developments with keen interest.’
      • ‘As such, the inflationary situation needs to be watched closely and there could be no room for complacency on this count.’
      • ‘Personally, I'm not terribly shocked by any of this yet, but I'll be watching the fall-out with interest.’
      • ‘We'll be watching that report and watching that decision as closely as we can, reading through it.’
      • ‘Of course, no one watching the process closely ever expected anything different.’
      • ‘Party leaders should realize that people are closely watching the politicians.’
      • ‘It's going to be interesting to watch her development this summer in Golden.’
      • ‘No Broadway or Hollywood actor, singer, or dancer worth watching escaped his pen.’
  • 2Exercise care, caution, or restraint about.

    ‘most women watch their diet during pregnancy’
    with clause ‘you should watch what you say!’
    • ‘Although I watched my diet and ate healthfully, I never deprived myself of any foods.’
    • ‘He stays away from heavy weights - typically, 35 pounds per arm is his max - watches his diet and is in the gym nearly every day.’
    • ‘She also provides advice for patients with medical conditions who have to watch their diet.’
    • ‘When I first moved out here I lost a bunch of weight by biking to work and watching my diet.’
    • ‘If you start watching your diet along with exercising, you're sure to see changes in your figure.’
    • ‘I have been drinking it ever since, in addition to watching my diet and cutting out shellfish.’
    • ‘The journey would take me many days, perhaps weeks, and I would have to be careful to watch my timing.’
    • ‘They have begun to watch their diet by restricting the amount of fat they eat.’
    • ‘Your mom is skinny like you and you always complain how she watches her diet so she doesn't gain weight.’
    • ‘In the end, I didn't want to spend the rest of my life watching my diet, taking supplements, having tests.’
    • ‘She says she also watched her diet and took milk thistle, and that she continues those practices today.’
    • ‘The athletes were instructed to watch their diet and abstain from the debilitations of sex.’
    • ‘She kept her body slim and healthy with regular exercise and watching the amount of food she ate.’
    • ‘Health and physical energy is good but you need to take frequent breaks and watch your diet and fitness routines.’
    • ‘Nancy at times, when he got a little hefty would watch his diet.’
    • ‘There aren't many people who have extra weight that workout/exercise regularly and watch their intake.’
    • ‘Be sure to watch your diet, the following nutrition tips might help reduce the problems.’
    • ‘You need to watch the diet and, he says wryly, this is one publican that only rarely gets a chance to have a few pints.’
    • ‘This means you must really watch your diet and you must also train weights so that you look lean and cut as much as possible.’
    • ‘Despite good health, you need to take frequent breaks at work and watch your diet and fitness routines.’
    be careful about, be careful of, exercise care about, exercise caution about, exercise restraint about
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1watch forno object Look out or be on the alert for.
      ‘in spring and summer, watch for kingfishers’
      ‘watch out for broken glass’
      • ‘We will continue to do what we have been doing for the last 12 years, which is watching for missiles and tracking objects in orbit.’
      • ‘Counselors should be watching for changes in behavior or increased irritability.’
      • ‘His mother often sat upon the shore of the ocean and stared out across the sea, watching for a sign.’
      • ‘Her medical condition means she has to swim with an observer on the poolside, watching for the first sign of any fit or seizure.’
      • ‘We are watching for the colder air to come over the warmer waters of the Great Lakes.’
      • ‘Patrick spun around twice, three times, waiting, watching for the next attack.’
      • ‘I can't wait to burn it up, and then watch for a decline in the planetary temperature.’
      • ‘His hens are also locked indoors and he is watching for signs of the virulent disease.’
      • ‘Driver fatigue can occur on short trips too so be alert and watch for signs of tiredness.’
      • ‘Desperate to attract talent, they will be watching for a surge in would-be spies.’
      • ‘Good housekeeping is a phrase Michael uses when he talks about watching for fire hazards in the home.’
      • ‘I carried on walking, watching for people who showed signs of pulling up on my double yellow lines.’
      • ‘I'd wait patiently, watching for a movement that would allow me to get it in my binoculars.’
      • ‘Her function at the time would be to watch for the target and alert her master when he arrived.’
      • ‘He warily watches for signs of excessive consumption and hasn't had to crack down too hard yet.’
      look out for, wait for, await, stand by for, hold back for
      View synonyms
    2. 2.2watch outno object, usually in imperative Be careful.
      ‘credit-card fraud is on the increase, so watch out’
      • ‘During one such meeting, the residents are warned that their house servants may be spies and to watch out.’
      • ‘I should watch out though, after a few days of nerves I'm suddenly filled with a good feeling.’
      • ‘Which are two things we usually tend to do both of, so we'll have to watch out.’
      • ‘So to all other bloggers out there: next time you're in a service station, watch out!’
      • ‘We'd suggest Lisa checks her locks and tells her friends to watch out.’
      • ‘Retailers in Kingston selling fireworks to underage youths in the run up to Guy Fawkes night had better watch out.’
      • ‘Those doing sedentary jobs watch out - you are eating more calories than you expend during the day.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Fans of the cards are being warned to watch out after two York youngsters bought cards on a trip to the seaside which turned out to be fakes.’
      • ‘We see him speaking with Budd, trying to convince him to watch out.’
      • ‘They have to watch out and be really careful.’
      be careful, be watchful, beware, be on the watch, be wary, be cautious, be on your guard, mind out, look out, pay attention, take care, take heed, have a care, be on the alert, be on the lookout, keep a sharp lookout, be vigilant, be on the qui vive
      View synonyms
    3. 2.3watch it/yourselfinformal usually in imperative Be careful (used as a warning or threat)
      ‘if anyone finds out, you're dead meat, so watch it’
      be careful, be watchful, beware, be on the watch, be wary, be cautious, be on your guard, mind out, look out, pay attention, take care, take heed, have a care, be on the alert, be on the lookout, keep a sharp lookout, be vigilant, be on the qui vive
      View synonyms
  • 3archaic no object 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.

    • ‘Digital alarm clocks and watches operate weirdly and are often indecipherable.’
    • ‘Trent's digital watch beeped moments later, just after the two had finished their breakfasts.’
    • ‘They stole necklaces from around the necks of women, watches from around their wrists, money and mobile phones from their bags.’
    • ‘A safe was forced open and a very large quantity of antique gold watches were stolen.’
    • ‘Today we calibrate our watches with atomic clocks, but back then there was no timepiece more reliable than the rotating Earth itself.’
    • ‘He pulled his left arm away from her and checked the gleaming silver watch on his wrist.’
    • ‘One cannot tell how long it takes him to calm down; the watches and clocks have stopped too.’
    • ‘Is it coincidence that our generation is infatuated with digital watches and clocks?’
    • ‘However, clocks and watches suffered from a lack of precision in both operation and standardization.’
    • ‘Later, though, they curse me for being delayed in clocking out when the watches on their wrists clearly show it is time to go.’
    • ‘He used his phone and his watch as an alarm clock, and he slept on an air mattress.’
    • ‘Me, I still wear my digital watch every day.’
    • ‘I bought a digital watch for the first time in years because I was so struck with the phenomenon.’
    • ‘He strapped on his watch, so he'd take note of the time all day, and finally reached for his cell phone.’
    • ‘He felt around the side table for his watch and strapped it to his arm again before pressing a button on the side.’
    • ‘He has two watches on his left wrist, one looks expensive and keeps normal time, the other is digital and keeps training time.’
    • ‘I looked at my watch on my wrist and screamed when I saw the time.’
    • ‘I have stopped wearing watches because time is really painful when you don't have your loved ones with you.’
    • ‘Figuring things could go only one way from there, they immediately stopped their watches.’
    • ‘She pointed to the gold watch on her wrist.’
    timepiece, chronometer, small clock, timer
    View synonyms
  • 2usually 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’
    • ‘He still kept a vigilant watch on him throughout the entire evening.’
    • ‘They kept a vigilant watch at the back but had to be on guard against the counter.’
    • ‘Medical staff are maintaining a close watch on the patient and his family are keeping a constant presence at his bedside.’
    • ‘Instruction has been given to keep a close watch on the patient and to take necessary preventive measures if necessary.’
    • ‘The site is heavily contaminated and a 24-hour watch is required to prevent fly tipping.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Some medicines can be used during pregnancy if the doctor keeps a careful watch on the mother.’
    • ‘Umpires must keep a careful watch as to the position of the runners every time an outfielder makes a throw.’
    • ‘I keep a vigilant watch but did not see any crimes being committed or miscreants around the premises.’
    • ‘Their 24-hour watch and the strict limits imposed on our activities weighed heavily on us.’
    • ‘My husband and I both keep quite a careful watch over what we will have to live on when we retire.’
    • ‘He kept a careful watch on her, knowing it was him who taught her everything she knows.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In this case the cargo must be vented twice daily for thirty minutes each period with a careful watch kept on the delivery temperature.’
    • ‘As always he kept a careful watch on David as he poked around the store, Craig had little trust in him.’
    • ‘So preoccupied were the bears that they paid no attention to us for the whole duration of our 1,5 hour watch.’
    • ‘This is one of two or three seats we hope to keep a careful watch on, when we hit the ground running next week!’
    • ‘The Ottoman court in Istanbul was clearly keeping a close watch on developments in the western Atlantic.’
    • ‘And families will need to keep a close watch on youngsters taking such drugs.’
    guard, vigil, lookout, an eye
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 A 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’
      • ‘Ascending to the quarterdeck, he checked in with the man assigned the afternoon watch.’
      • ‘Another of the Scarlet mages who slew the Azure ones is camped very close to me, and had the dawn watch.’
      • ‘During the first watch of the night he acquired the power to look back through his previous existences, recalling them in full detail.’
      • ‘He blinked, his foggy vision slowly clearing, and stood, realizing that the last watch of the night was over, and the king was awake.’
      • ‘It was an old trick that he had learnt in the jungles of South America from sentries on the midday watch.’
      • ‘Both of them would take a watch during the night, and would report anything strange to her at once.’
    2. 2.2 A fixed period of duty on a ship, usually lasting four hours.
      • ‘He glanced at his wrist chrono and saw that it was already about an hour into the next watch.’
      shift, stint, spell, stretch, turn
      View synonyms
    3. 2.3 The officers and crew on duty during a watch.
      • ‘I believe the steward is about to call the starboard watch to lunch, sir.’
    4. 2.4usually the watchhistorical A watchman or group of watchmen who patrolled and guarded the streets of a town before the introduction of the police force.
    5. 2.5 A body of soldiers making up a guard.
      • ‘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.

      • ‘Practitioners should be careful to avoid these problems, and customers should be on the watch to avoid being victimized by them.’
      • ‘Thus, in the future, commentators should be on the watch for federalism issues across a wide range of Court decision, implicating various amendments.’
      • ‘‘We must be on the watch for any revival of anti-Semitism, and ready to act against the new forms of it that are appearing today,’ Annan said.’
      • ‘What we ought to be doing is focusing our money and attention on identifying terrorists and their associates so we can be on the watch for these characters, not playing video games.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If your child is having large amounts of diarrhea, be on the watch for signs of dehydration (a low level of body water).’
      • ‘We should be on the watch, though, for commonalities which advance the project of thinking multiple traditions.’
      • ‘In these days when so many men are using cutting torches, the physician must be on the watch for acute lead poisoning.’
      • ‘If they had not been on the watch for raiders, they would have had time to find it beautiful.’
      • ‘We also ask our church members and sympathetic local people to be on the watch for anything or anyone suspicious.’
      be careful, be watchful, beware, be on the watch, be wary, be cautious, be on your guard, mind out, look out, pay attention, take care, take heed, have a care, be on the alert, be on the lookout, keep a sharp lookout, be vigilant, be on the qui vive
      View synonyms
  • keep watch

    • Stay on the lookout for danger or trouble.

      • ‘I shall have the other guards keep watch for a little while.’
      • ‘One slumps back on his heels as an armed guard keeps watch.’
      • ‘Uniformed guards called safer travel officers are keeping watch for trouble-makers.’
      • ‘Wily lookouts kept watch for German guards, calling out codewords as a warning.’
      • ‘One thug brandishing a shotgun kept watch while the other three, armed with a machete and an iron bar, rushed inside and grabbed hundreds of Rolex, Omega and Cartier watches.’
      • ‘Some men stayed at the door keeping watch for Kane.’
      • ‘A guard will keep watch through a large cell window 24 hours a day.’
      • ‘The safety of his clients especially the younger set were always Mick's priority and he always kept watch and had his workers on their toes to never accept any trouble or disturbances in his club.’
      • ‘The person who does most exercise at the complex now is the security guard keeping watch outside as the dust gathers.’
      • ‘Even the guards who had been keeping watch outside were in the dark.’
      guard, vigil, lookout, an eye
      View synonyms
  • 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.

      • ‘The psalms also encourage us to meditate on God's law in the watches of the night.’
      • ‘My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.’
      • ‘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 time

    • Ensure that one is aware of the time in order to avoid being late.

      • ‘‘All right, but only fifteen minutes, and I'll be watching the time too, so don't think you can get away with anything,’ he said, handing over his precious car keys to his younger brother.’
      • ‘I have been watching the time quite carefully, and I have seen that this debate on the title has gone on for a fraction over an hour.’
      • ‘She mentally scolded herself for being so stupid so as not to watch the time and she made a promise with herself that she would never make that mistake again.’
      • ‘We were all over at Kylie's, and I wasn't really watching the time.’
      • ‘She talks about continually watching the time to ensure that they are home by 7pm.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I shook my head thinking that I needed to watch the time better when programming.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘Well, I better be going,’ he said, as if he had been watching the time.’
      • ‘Clicking through the stations, he tried to relax instead of watching the time.’


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