Definition of watch in English:



  • 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’
    • ‘Serena and I both pulled back, startled, and then watched in awe as they both started laughing.’
    • ‘They were sitting side by side on her couch watching reruns of an old show.’
    • ‘Greg moved back, watching intently to see what could happen.’
    • ‘The red haired boy was watching in amused silence, and I poked him.’
    • ‘People just watched all the things I was taking out of my basket.’
    • ‘Ian and Craig just watched in horror, unable to comprehend what was going on.’
    • ‘He dodged, and then watched in amazement as it bounced off a tree but did not shatter.’
    • ‘He watched in fascination as Nero, broken and bandaged, did the same.’
    • ‘As soon as they reached a safe place to stand, everyone stopped and watched her.’
    • ‘The match was watched by a crowd of 5,090 and an Oldham player was sent off in the second half.’
    • ‘Flowers and wooden curios were thrown onto bonfires as their owners watched in disbelief.’
    • ‘My dad and I used to watch the sunrise everyday.’
    • ‘Lying on the couch watching television, Denise's cordless phone began to ring.’
    • ‘I watch with thinly veiled amusement as he insistently taps her on the shoulder.’
    • ‘In that 13-second time span, people just watched to see which one will become victorious.’
    • ‘The crowd then watched in amazement as he freed himself in six and a half minutes.’
    • ‘As they watched in silence, a pillow suddenly hit Chasity in the face.’
    • ‘For a brief moment all the fighting stopped as everyone watched one of the infantry barracks go up in a great ball of fire.’
    • ‘We all watched helplessly as the beast flew above us.’
    • ‘She was intently watching the television with a broad grin spread across her lively face.’
    observe, view, look at, eye, gaze at, stare at, gape at, peer at
    View synonyms
    1. 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’
      • ‘The box, which appeared to be designed for air freight, was also watched over by a uniformed guard.’
      • ‘Richard, the owner, is on patrol duty and he watches the women protectively.’
      • ‘But this was a public Internet bar that is possibly watched over by Internet security officers.’
      • ‘The staff did their job down to the final detail, as their supervisor watched over them like a warden on an inmate.’
      • ‘A third robber, carrying a firearm, watched over him while the others continued the raid.’
      • ‘She felt she knew him, knew him intimately, that he personally protected her and watched over her.’
      • ‘The large swimming pool on the podium roof is watched over by attendants who anticipate your every whim.’
      • ‘In her youth, Elizabeth had been watched over by her tyrannical father.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They were watched over by several hundred police officers, but no incidents were reported.’
      • ‘All the inmates had to be protected and watched over, and any problems that arose would have to be sorted out at once.’
      • ‘Infants are watched over constantly by their parents, who often take them to the tasks in which they are engaged.’
      • ‘Lydia has taken over the bed and is watched over by Eleanor and Libbie.’
      • ‘I know they were there for my own protection, but I was sick of being watched over.’
      • ‘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.’
      guard, stand guard over, keep guard on, protect, shield, preserve, defend, safeguard, screen, shelter
      look after, mind, take care of, care for, supervise, superintend, tend, attend to, minister to, foster, nurse, guard, safeguard, protect
      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
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2[no object]Observe and guard in a protective way.
      ‘I guess I can rest a while, with you here to watch over me’
    3. 1.3Follow closely or maintain an interest in.
      ‘the girls watched the development of this relationship with incredulity’
      • ‘Personally, I'm not terribly shocked by any of this yet, but I'll be watching the fall-out with interest.’
      • ‘Of course, no one watching the process closely ever expected anything different.’
      • ‘And I'm watching very closely to see if that's a real worry.’
      • ‘Big food firms are watching developments with keen interest.’
      • ‘We'll be watching that report and watching that decision as closely as we can, reading through it.’
      • ‘No Broadway or Hollywood actor, singer, or dancer worth watching escaped his pen.’
      • ‘As such, the inflationary situation needs to be watched closely and there could be no room for complacency on this count.’
      • ‘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 South African government is watching developments in Zimbabwe closely.’
      • ‘The developments in Germany are closely watched by experts in the Netherlands.’
      • ‘Members of the anti-war movement should be watching these developments closely.’
      • ‘A spokesman said it was watching developments with interest.’
      • ‘It's going to be interesting to watch her development this summer in Golden.’
      • ‘Party leaders should realize that people are closely watching the politicians.’
      • ‘Quebec First Nation leaders were watching the court decision closely, as were leaders across the country.’
      • ‘Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, is watching events with particular interest.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘So news of his consultations with the Chinese leadership was closely watched.’
    4. 1.4Exercise care, caution, or restraint about.
      ‘most women watch their diet during pregnancy’
      [with clause] ‘you should watch what you say!’
      • ‘She kept her body slim and healthy with regular exercise and watching the amount of food she ate.’
      • ‘Despite good health, you need to take frequent breaks at work and watch your diet and fitness routines.’
      • ‘She also provides advice for patients with medical conditions who have to watch their diet.’
      • ‘They have begun to watch their diet by restricting the amount of fat they eat.’
      • ‘Nancy at times, when he got a little hefty would watch his diet.’
      • ‘In the end, I didn't want to spend the rest of my life watching my diet, taking supplements, having tests.’
      • ‘Be sure to watch your diet, the following nutrition tips might help reduce the problems.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Although I watched my diet and ate healthfully, I never deprived myself of any foods.’
      • ‘I have been drinking it ever since, in addition to watching my diet and cutting out shellfish.’
      • ‘If you start watching your diet along with exercising, you're sure to see changes in your figure.’
      • ‘There aren't many people who have extra weight that workout/exercise regularly and watch their intake.’
      • ‘Health and physical energy is good but you need to take frequent breaks and watch your diet and fitness routines.’
      • ‘The journey would take me many days, perhaps weeks, and I would have to be careful to watch my timing.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The athletes were instructed to watch their diet and abstain from the debilitations of sex.’
      • ‘When I first moved out here I lost a bunch of weight by biking to work and watching my diet.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Your mom is skinny like you and you always complain how she watches her diet so she doesn't gain weight.’
      • ‘She says she also watched her diet and took milk thistle, and that she continues those practices today.’
      be careful about, be careful of, exercise care about, exercise caution about, exercise restraint about
      View synonyms
    5. 1.5[no object]Look out or be on the alert for.
      ‘in spring and summer, watch for kingfishers’
      ‘watch out for broken glass’
      • ‘I can't wait to burn it up, and then watch for a decline in the planetary temperature.’
      • ‘Counselors should be watching for changes in behavior or increased irritability.’
      • ‘Her medical condition means she has to swim with an observer on the poolside, watching for the first sign of any fit or seizure.’
      • ‘Good housekeeping is a phrase Michael uses when he talks about watching for fire hazards in the home.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Desperate to attract talent, they will be watching for a surge in would-be spies.’
      • ‘His hens are also locked indoors and he is watching for signs of the virulent disease.’
      • ‘Patrick spun around twice, three times, waiting, watching for the next attack.’
      • ‘His mother often sat upon the shore of the ocean and stared out across the sea, watching for a sign.’
      • ‘He warily watches for signs of excessive consumption and hasn't had to crack down too hard yet.’
      • ‘We are watching for the colder air to come over the warmer waters of the Great Lakes.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      look out for, wait for, await, stand by for, hold back for
      anticipate, expect
      keep an eye open for
      View synonyms
    6. 1.6[no object, usually in imperative]Be careful.
      ‘credit-card fraud is on the increase, so watch out’
      • ‘I should watch out though, after a few days of nerves I'm suddenly filled with a good feeling.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We'd suggest Lisa checks her locks and tells her friends to watch out.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘During one such meeting, the residents are warned that their house servants may be spies and to watch out.’
      • ‘Retailers in Kingston selling fireworks to underage youths in the run up to Guy Fawkes night had better watch out.’
      • ‘So to all other bloggers out there: next time you're in a service station, watch out!’
      • ‘Those doing sedentary jobs watch out - you are eating more calories than you expend during the day.’
      • ‘Which are two things we usually tend to do both of, so we'll have 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
      keep an eye open, keep an eye out, keep one's eyes peeled, keep one's eyes skinned
      View synonyms
    7. 1.7informal [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
      keep an eye open, keep an eye out, keep one's eyes peeled, keep one's eyes skinned
      View synonyms
  • 2archaic [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.

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

      • ‘We also ask our church members and sympathetic local people to be on the watch for anything or anyone suspicious.’
      • ‘‘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.’
      • ‘In these days when so many men are using cutting torches, the physician must be on the watch for acute lead poisoning.’
      • ‘We should be on the watch, though, for commonalities which advance the project of thinking multiple traditions.’
      • ‘Thus, in the future, commentators should be on the watch for federalism issues across a wide range of Court decision, implicating various amendments.’
      • ‘If your child is having large amounts of diarrhea, be on the watch for signs of dehydration (a low level of body water).’
      • ‘If they had not been on the watch for raiders, they would have had time to find it beautiful.’
      • ‘Practitioners should be careful to avoid these problems, and customers should be on the watch to avoid being victimized by them.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      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
      keep an eye open, keep an eye out, keep one's eyes peeled, keep one's eyes skinned
      View synonyms
  • keep watch

    • Stay on the lookout for danger or trouble.

      • ‘The person who does most exercise at the complex now is the security guard keeping watch outside as the dust gathers.’
      • ‘One slumps back on his heels as an armed guard keeps watch.’
      • ‘Even the guards who had been keeping watch outside were in the dark.’
      • ‘I shall have the other guards keep watch for a little while.’
      • ‘Some men stayed at the door keeping watch for Kane.’
      • ‘Uniformed guards called safer travel officers are keeping watch for trouble-makers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A guard will keep watch through a large cell window 24 hours a day.’
      • ‘Wily lookouts kept watch for German guards, calling out codewords as a warning.’
      guard, vigil, lookout, an eye
      View synonyms
  • watch one's mouth

    • informal Be careful about what one says.

      • ‘You'll learn to watch your mouth when talking to me.’
      • ‘Please watch your mouth around here, young lady.’
      • ‘I know damn well what I'm saying, and no way in hell am I watching my mouth.’
      • ‘You should watch your mouth when there is a lady present.’
      • ‘I'd watch your mouth if I were you.’
      • ‘After warning him to watch his mouth once again he walked off with his dogs.’
      • ‘I should also warn you to watch your mouth around him.’
      • ‘In the locker-room, too, he will have to watch his mouth.’
      • ‘‘Todd Alexander, watch your mouth in front of your mother,’ Rob snapped.’
      • ‘I was the one who made sure that he watched his mouth in interviews.’
  • 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.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The psalms also encourage us to meditate on God's law in the watches of the night.’
      • ‘Both the Bible and the ‘Boy Who Lived’ proved good company during the watches of the night.’
  • watch (one's) pennies

  • watch one's step

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

      • ‘"Watch your step, Foster," I warned.’
      • ‘She was recording every word and I should watch my step.’
      • ‘Men in politics also have to watch their step.’
      • ‘Gordon Brown will have to watch his step.’
      • ‘These right wingers should probably watch their steps.’
      • ‘In the end, Hunter warns the Hollywood hacks to watch their step.’
      • ‘It should also serve as a salient reminder to watch your step.’
      • ‘Having made some enemies in the Square Mile with his arrogant style and withering disregard for City scribblers, Mathewson now needs to watch his step.’
      • ‘It's best to watch your step now, Mike.’
      • ‘However, one had to watch one's step.’
  • watch this space

    • informal Further developments are expected and more information will be given later.

      • ‘There is also said to be another major development in the pipeline, so watch this space for more on a very local success story.’
      • ‘Many more interests will be catered for, so watch this space for more information.’
      • ‘Therefore, keep watching this space for some interesting stuff in the next few weeks.’
      • ‘Get your tickets early folks, this one is going to sell out fast, and watch this space for even more information closer to the date.’
      • ‘The next meeting is provisionally planned for Wednesday 2nd November, but watch this space for time and place!’
      • ‘More details should follow soon, so watch this space!’
      • ‘For further information on the band's progress, including gigs, watch this space.’
      • ‘A lot more information will be provided in the coming weeks, so watch this space.’
      • ‘A special gig to launch this anti-war movement will take place shortly; watch this space for further developments.’
      • ‘Another bigger ‘brand sale’ is in the offing so watch this space for more information about dates and times.’
  • watch the time

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

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘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.’
      • ‘She talks about continually watching the time to ensure that they are home by 7pm.’
      • ‘We were all over at Kylie's, and I wasn't really watching the time.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Clicking through the stations, he tried to relax instead of watching the time.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘Well, I better be going,’ he said, as if he had been watching the time.’
      • ‘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.’


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.