ob·​serve | \əb-ˈzərv \
observed; observing

Definition of observe 

transitive verb

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

4a : 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."

intransitive verb

1a : 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.

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Other Words from observe

observingly \ əb-​ˈzər-​viŋ-​lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of observe in a Sentence

The class will be observing the movements of fish. The patient must be observed constantly. Children learn by observing their parents and others. The new teacher will give the lesson today and the principal will observe. We observed a large flock of birds heading north. He observed two children playing with marbles on the street corner. She observed that every man in the room had removed his hat. Few cases of the disease have been observed in humans.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Share ideas and feedback with others, observe, and get critique of your writing. Mary Lou Cruz, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Davie area events July 18-28," 14 July 2018 The report observed that such a move would bring tax benefits to the state, health benefits to some individuals and a reduction in arrests of minority residents, who are disproportionately affected by police enforcement of marijuana laws. New York Times, "Cuomo Moves Closer to Marijuana Legalization in New York," 13 July 2018 For it cannot be presumed that the same degree of sound policy, prudence, and foresight would uniformly be observed by each of these confederacies for a long succession of years. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Fox News Power Rankings: Hello, Wisconsin," 12 July 2018 The truce was observed peacefully by the Taliban for three days, sparking nationwide hopes for progress in settling the 17-year war. Pamela Constable And John Hudson, Washington Post, "Pompeo makes unannounced trip to Kabul, says Trump’s Afghan strategy is ‘working’," 9 July 2018 Through the now-defunct Louise Wise adoption agency, an unknown number of twins and triplets were placed in different homes and secretly observed for years by researchers who diligently made home visits. Amy Kaufman, latimes.com, "The surreal, sad story behind the acclaimed new doc 'Three Identical Strangers'," 1 July 2018 In 2014, two violations were observed by inspectors but were corrected by the restaurant. Adam Edelman /, NBC News, "Trump attacks 'filthy' Red Hen, the Virginia restaurant that asked Sarah Sanders to leave," 25 June 2018 The simulation shows that the bow wave observed by Akatsuki could have been caused by strong winds impacting the planet’s mountains. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "The Winds on Venus Blow Hard Enough to Shorten the Day," 20 June 2018 At the Camp Diversity retreat observed by The Chronicle, many campers already knew the challenges. San Francisco Chronicle, "A Retreat’s Risky Lessons," 14 June 2018

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.

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First Known Use of observe

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for 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

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Statistics for observe

Last Updated

11 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for observe

The first known use of observe was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for observe



English Language Learners Definition of observe

: 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


ob·​serve | \əb-ˈzərv \
observed; observing

Kids Definition of observe

1 : to watch carefully They observed her behavior.

2 : to act in agreement with : obey Remember to observe the law.

3 : celebrate sense 1 Next Friday we will observe a religious holiday.

4 : remark entry 2, say “Those are some big ears he's got, too,” observed his uncle Alfred.— Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

Other Words from observe

observer noun

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Comments on observe

What made you want to look up observe? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

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