ob·​serve əb-ˈzərv How to pronounce observe (audio)
observed; observing

transitive verb

: 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
: to inspect or take note of as an augury, omen, or presage
observed the flight of the sacred geese
: to celebrate or solemnize (something, such as a ceremony or festival) in a customary or accepted way
observed Independence Day with a parade
: to watch carefully especially with attention to details or behavior for the purpose of arriving at a judgment
observed the behavior of the children
: to make a scientific observation on or of
observed the mating habits of the grouse
: 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
: to utter as a remark
"The paint," she observed, "is already starting to peel."

intransitive verb

: to take notice
When your teacher is demonstrating something, sit up and observe!
: to make observations : watch
Perform your tricks, and we will observe.
: remark, comment
In her speech she observed on the changing climate.
observingly 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.
Recent Examples on the Web On this day at the farm, some chose to sit back and observe the proceedings from a comfortable chair with a glass of wine while others got right in the thick of things. Laurie Ochoa, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2024 Some countries, including the U.K., still observe Mother's Day on Mothering Sunday. Olivia Munson, USA TODAY, 11 Apr. 2024 Visitors can observe birds, identifying them by sight, sound and habitat. Dina Kaur, The Arizona Republic, 11 Apr. 2024 For example, the Buddhist calendar observed in Thailand diverges from the Gregorian calendar by several centuries. Brendan Rascius, Miami Herald, 11 Apr. 2024 Gazans observe an austere Eid al-Fitr in the shadow of war. Thomas Fuller, New York Times, 10 Apr. 2024 Robbins, meanwhile, will commute to Manhattan beginning in August, observing Glenview’s policy of in-office work three days a week. Tori Latham, Robb Report, 10 Apr. 2024 Another tornado was observed around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in the city of Raymond, Mississippi, about 20 miles west of Jackson – and more tornadoes could be on the way Wednesday. Robert Shackelford, CNN, 10 Apr. 2024 Do directors spend many hours each week on HOA business, inspecting the property, observing vendors and otherwise dealing with the HOA’s daily matters? Kelly G. Richardson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 Apr. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'observe.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near observe

Cite this Entry

“Observe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/observe. Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ob·​serve əb-ˈzərv How to pronounce observe (audio)
observed; observing
: to act in agreement with : obey
observe the law
: to celebrate or honor (as a holiday) with special events or customs
: to watch carefully
observed how the food was prepared
: to make a scientific observation of
observe an eclipse
: to come to understand or know especially by thinking about facts that have been noted
I have observed that it happens more often on Tuesdays
: to say as a remark
observed that it was a fine day and we agreed
observer noun

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