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 observation (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 And in 1892, with no scientific testing available, observation was the best and only tool at hand. Erin Moriarty, CBS News, ""Lizzie Borden took an axe" — or did she? What would a jury say today?," 26 Dec. 2020 This observation is the key to an economic recovery program that can be both ambitious and noninflationary—a program that will truly see the United States build back better. Robert Hockett, The New Republic, "Why Joe Biden Can Stop Worrying and Start Spending Like Crazy," 1 Dec. 2020 Previously, that observation was done by statistical analysis of only a select number of images. Sara Castellanos, WSJ, "Climate Researchers Enlist Big Cloud Providers for Big Data Challenges," 25 Nov. 2020 Without that heads-up observation from Landry, there might not have been the memorable 24-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to Donovan Peoples-Jones. Tim Bielik, cleveland, "How Jarvis Landry helped the Browns avoid a 10-second runoff and set up the game-winning TD by waving his arm," 29 Oct. 2020 But that observation needed confirmation, and in 2019, the team turned to a more powerful instrument: the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a network of 66 radio dishes in the Chilean high desert. Nadia Drake, National Geographic, "Promising sign of life on Venus might not exist after all," 23 Oct. 2020 That observation led him to investigate whether the novel coronavirus could infect nociceptors. Stephani Sutherland, Scientific American, "What We Know So Far about How COVID Affects the Nervous System," 22 Oct. 2020 This observation is correct, but the question is what to make of it. Tyler Cowen Bloomberg Opinion (tns), Star Tribune, "Yes, COVID-19 is more serious for the elderly. So what?," 21 Oct. 2020 This observation is one of many that have helped astronomers refine the universe's rate of expansion since Hubble launched in 1990. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Hubble watches as an exploding star fades away," 3 Oct. 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

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Observation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/observation. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.

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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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