observe

verb
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.

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

While there is no national law regarding punishment if proper decorum is not observed during the playing of the Anthem, there are established rules of conduct. Jill Gleeson, Country Living, "National Anthem Etiquette: How to Properly Honor 'The Star-Spangled Banner'," 5 Nov. 2018 Fairley and his colleagues are trying to understand the burner by observing the pot. Kevin Davenport, idahostatesman, "Yellowstone's magma chamber is more powerful than we knew. Here's why studying it matters.," 3 July 2018 This study supports our current understanding of gravity and provides more evidence for the existence of dark matter and dark energy — two mysterious concepts that scientists know about only indirectly by observing their effects on cosmic objects. Chelsea Gohd, Space.com, "Einstein Was Right! Scientists Confirm General Relativity Works With Distant Galaxy," 21 June 2018 Visitors can observe hopeful ribbon winners exhibiting their flowers, pies and jams and showing their livestock and curiosities of the era. Sheryl Devore, Lake County News-Sun, "Civil War Days event in Lake County shows many sides of the 1860s experience," 20 June 2018 During a tour of Liyang, Kellner observed such similarities to Columbia as trees being planted to improve air quality, fledgling technology and biotechnology firms, and schools with engaged students. Janene Holzberg, Howard County Times, "Columbia poised to add China's Liyang as sister city," 15 June 2018 The 60 students at the Camp Everytown retreat observed last fall did not come from well-off Los Altos or Palo Alto, but from three charter high schools in some of the region’s most impoverished communities in East Palo Alto and San Jose. San Francisco Chronicle, "A Retreat’s Risky Lessons," 14 June 2018 After observing the freedoms of the modern world, Serena is given a choice. refinery29.com, "The Handmaid's Tale," 13 June 2018 In these works, Sironi, like De Chirico, Morandi and Carrà, each in his own way, penetrated to the inwardness of physical forms to reveal that every object, truly observed, is mysterious. Lance Esplund, WSJ, "‘Metaphysical Masterpieces 1916-1920: Morandi, Sironi, and Carrà’ Review: Every Object’s Mysteries," 16 Jan. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about observe

Statistics for observe

Last Updated

4 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for observe

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for observe

observe

verb

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

observe

verb
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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on observe

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with observe

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for observe

Spanish Central: Translation of observe

Nglish: Translation of observe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of observe for Arabic Speakers

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

the perfect form or example of something

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!