verb ob·serve \ əb-ˈzərv \
|Updated on: 8 Jul 2018

Definition of observe

observed; observing
1 : to conform one's action or practice to (something, such as a law, rite, or condition) : comply with
  • failed to observe the law and as a consequence had to pay a fine
2 : to inspect or take note of as an augury, omen, or presage
  • observed the flight of the sacred geese
3 : to celebrate or solemnize (something, such as a ceremony or festival) in a customary or accepted way
  • observed Independence Day with a parade
4 a : to watch carefully especially with attention to details or behavior for the purpose of arriving at a judgment
  • observed the behavior of the children
b : to make a scientific observation on or of
  • observed the mating habits of the grouse
5 : to come to realize or know especially through consideration of noted facts
  • observed that the indefinite reduction of any given risk to society often brings with it an increase in other risks.
  • —E. L. Zebroski
6 : to utter as a remark
  • "The paint," she observed, "is already starting to peel."
1 a : to take notice
  • When your teacher is demonstrating something, sit up and observe!
b : to make observations : watch
  • Perform your tricks, and we will observe.
2 : remark, comment
  • In her speech she observed on the changing climate.


play \əb-ˈzər-viŋ-lē\ adverb

Examples of observe in a Sentence

  1. The class will be observing the movements of fish.

  2. The patient must be observed constantly.

  3. Children learn by observing their parents and others.

  4. The new teacher will give the lesson today and the principal will observe.

  5. We observed a large flock of birds heading north.

  6. He observed two children playing with marbles on the street corner.

  7. She observed that every man in the room had removed his hat.

  8. Few cases of the disease have been observed in humans.

Recent Examples of observe from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of observe

Middle English, from Anglo-French observer, from Latin observare to guard, watch, observe, from ob- in the way, toward + servare to keep — more at conserve

Synonym Discussion of observe

keep, observe, celebrate, commemorate mean to notice or honor a day, occasion, or deed. keep stresses the idea of not neglecting or violating.
    • kept the Sabbath by refraining from work
observe suggests marking the occasion by ceremonious performance.
    • not all holidays are observed nationally
celebrate suggests acknowledging an occasion by festivity.
    • traditionally celebrates Thanksgiving with a huge dinner
commemorate suggests that an occasion is marked by observances that remind one of the origin and significance of the event.
    • commemorate Memorial Day with the laying of wreaths

OBSERVE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of observe for English Language Learners

  • : to watch and sometimes also listen to (someone or something) carefully

  • : to see and notice (someone or something)

  • : to make a comment about something you notice

OBSERVE Defined for Kids


verb ob·serve \ əb-ˈzərv \

Definition of observe for Students

observed; observing
1 : to watch carefully
  • They observed her behavior.
2 : to act in agreement with : obey
  • Remember to observe the law.
3 : celebrate 1
  • Next Friday we will observe a religious holiday.
4 : 2remark, say
  • “Those are some big ears he's got, too,” observed his uncle Alfred.
  • —Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux



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one who attends or assists a leader

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