ob·​ser·​va·​tion | \ ˌäb-sər-ˈvā-shən How to pronounce observation (audio) , -zər- \

Definition of observation

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : an act or instance of observing a custom, rule, or law observation of the dress code
b : observance sense 3 The characters in her novel are based on close observation of her family.
2a : an act of recognizing and noting a fact or occurrence often involving measurement with instruments weather observations
b : a record or description so obtained Scientific observations were sent to the committee.
3 : a judgment on or inference (see inference sense 2) from what one has observed broadly : remark, statement an insightful observation based his observations on his own research
4 obsolete : attentive care : heed
5 : the condition of one that is observed under observation at the hospital



Definition of observation (Entry 2 of 2)

: designed for use in viewing something (such as scenery) or in making observations an observation tower the observation platform

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Other Words from observation


observational \ ˌäb-​sər-​ˈvā-​shnəl How to pronounce observational (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl , -​zər-​ \ adjective
observationally adverb

Examples of observation in a Sentence

Noun I'm not criticizing that kind of clothing. I'm just making an observation about the style. Her constant observations about the weather bored me. These facts are based on close observation of the birds in the wild. Observations made using the telescope have led to new theories. Some interesting observations came from the study. He recorded his observations in a notebook.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The observation that a small cadre of elite institutions gobbles up disproportionate resources, especially where research is concerned, is perhaps less defensible. Jacob Bacharach, The New Republic, "The Emptiness of Matthew Yglesias’s Biggest Idea," 10 Sep. 2020 This observation is the essence of the post-antihuman Church of Euthanasia. Katie Bain, Billboard, "20 Questions With Chris Korda: The Producer on the 'Anesthesia' of Dance Music & Why Humans Must Stop Breeding," 10 Sep. 2020 That observation is an insight into Gronkiewicz’s volleyball mind, which is always seeking more information and usually turns to coach Brett Boden in search of answers. Dave Melton, chicagotribune.com, "Marina Gronkiewicz sets stage for Munster’s sweep of Andrean: ‘That’s the best feeling, knowing that you’re getting into a rhythm and killing it out there.’," 8 Sep. 2020 Saturn, like its nearest planetary neighbor, Jupiter, is an object that rewards any kind of observation. Nicole Clausing, Sunset Magazine, "A Feel-Good Summer Hit, Coming to a Sky Near You," 4 Sep. 2020 Botanist Cecily Kay brings her powers of observation to bear on the mysterious murder of Sir Barnaby Mayne, London’s most esteemed collector. Monitor Reviewers, The Christian Science Monitor, "Last chance for a summer fling: The 10 best books of August 2020," 24 Aug. 2020 Yet any sense of concentrated and tightly focussed observation of the event at hand is diluted by footage showing events that take place outside of the competition’s boundaries. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "“Boys State,” Reviewed: A Frustratingly Hermetic View of Texas Teen Politicos," 20 Aug. 2020 Another clear observation: The marquee showdown — Gobert versus Nikola Jokic — is and will be fascinating to watch. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Gordon Monson: Oh, baby! Donovan Mitchell soars, nearly delivering a Utah Jazz victory in Game 1," 17 Aug. 2020 But attempts to translate their rough idea into precise mathematical language have always run afoul of at least one key observation. Quanta Magazine, "An Alternative to Dark Matter Passes Critical Test," 28 July 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'observation.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of observation


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1862, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for observation

Noun and Adjective

Middle French, from Latin observation-, observatio, from observare

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Time Traveler for observation

Time Traveler

The first known use of observation was in the 15th century

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Statistics for observation

Last Updated

18 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Observation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/observation. Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for observation


How to pronounce observation (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of observation

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a statement about something you have noticed : a comment or remark
: the act of careful watching and listening : the activity of paying close attention to someone or something in order to get information
: something you notice by watching and listening



English Language Learners Definition of observation (Entry 2 of 2)

: designed to be used while watching people or things


ob·​ser·​va·​tion | \ ˌäb-sər-ˈvā-shən How to pronounce observation (audio) , -zər- \

Kids Definition of observation

1 : an act or the power of seeing or taking notice of something His detailed description shows great powers of observation.
2 : the gathering of information by noting facts or occurrences weather observations
3 : an opinion formed or expressed after watching or noticing It's not a criticism, just an observation.
4 : the fact of being watched and studied The patient was in the hospital for observation.


ob·​ser·​va·​tion | \ ˌäb-sər-ˈvā-shən, -zər- How to pronounce observation (audio) \

Medical Definition of observation

1 : the noting of a fact or occurrence (as in nature) often involving the measurement of some magnitude with suitable instruments temperature observations also : a record so obtained
2 : close watch or examination (as to monitor or diagnose a condition) postoperative observation psychiatric observation

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Comments on observation

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