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

Humans first reported observing the clouds in 1885, two years after Indonesia’s Krakatoa volcano spewed large amounts of water vapor in the air, the study said. Katie Camero, BostonGlobe.com, "Once-rare cloud is now more common, and new study says climate change is to blame," 13 July 2018 The person said the letter described a scene in which a uniformed border agent observed a group of between 10 and 12 people walking in a restricted area in the United States near the Tornillo detention facility. New York Times, "Federal Officials Claim de Blasio Crossed Border Illegally," 11 July 2018 As the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget observed in a 2016 commentary, benefits won't disappear unless Congress eliminated the program itself, which seems even less likely than mustering the political consensus to solidify funding. Russ Wiles, azcentral, "Reality check: Social Security will survive, but will it be enough?," 8 July 2018 The blistering-hot temperature reading, observed in Ouargla, is probably the highest temperature ever reliably measured both in Algeria and in all of Africa. Jason Samenow, Washington Post, "Africa may have witnessed its all-time hottest temperature Thursday: 124 degrees in Algeria," 6 July 2018 As Matthew Continetti observes in a Free Beacon column: The only civil war happening at the moment is within the Democratic Party. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "The Democratic Party is on an identity quest.," 6 July 2018 Others, though, will indeed remain flying for, as Michael Christie, BAE’s head of air strategy, observes, in the future pilotless and piloted fighter aircraft will operate together. The Economist, "Tomorrow’s squadron leaders will be accompanied by drones," 5 July 2018 However, air quality in Sacramento County as of Monday afternoon was still forecast as mostly normal for this time of year, with the worst conditions observed in Elk Grove. Julia Sclafani, sacbee, "Fourth of July weather forecast sees balmy, breezy conditions in Sacramento area," 3 July 2018 Although some symptoms like being easily distractible tend to continue in most ADHD individuals, the predominant features of ADHD in adults differ from the classic features observed in children. Rene Hernandez-cardenache, Psy.d., M.s. Ed., miamiherald, "A focus on distraction: A closer look at adult ADHD," 2 July 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

16 Sep 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).


to deposit or conceal in a hiding place

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