ob·​serve | \ əb-ˈzərv How to pronounce observe (audio) \
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 How to pronounce observingly (audio) \ 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

The program also provided the opportunity for students to observe and interact with local speech practitioners. Sam Boyer, cleveland.com, "College Corner, Medina County," 30 Aug. 2019 During Saturday evening’s contest between his two beloved teams, the Padres and the Red Sox, Mitrovich’s photo appeared on the scoreboard video screen and fans were invited to observe a moment of silence in his memory. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: George Mitrovich recalled as friend to many, from busboys to millionaires," 26 Aug. 2019 To observe the demonstrations from street level is to witness such a remarkable level of coordination that the claim that the movement is leaderless defies credulity. Matt Bradley, NBC News, "As Hong Kong protests turn violent, one man fights to preserve middle ground," 24 Aug. 2019 Also, considering season 3 is a murder mystery, the present timeline's wide frame invites viewers to observe every inch of Clay’s world, lest there be some clue hiding in the corner. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, "Here Is Your New Trick To Recognizing A 13 Reasons Why Flashback," 24 Aug. 2019 This will almost double its sensitivity, permitting it to observe with the same rigour a volume of space seven times larger than now. The Economist, "Gravitational astronomy proves its maturity," 22 Aug. 2019 According to the Mahala View Lion Lodge’s website, three lions — named Rambo, Nakita and Katryn — were kept on the property of the safari lodge, located near Cullinan, South Africa, for tourists and guests to observe. Helen Murphy, PEOPLE.com, "Man Mauled to Death by His Own Lion in South African Safari Lodge: Reports," 21 Aug. 2019 At least 20 cameras will also stud the campus, to observe scooter riders in their natural habitat. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, "Ford’s Bid for Safer Scooters? Tracking College Kids," 21 Aug. 2019 During the trip, the goal is to get the ship into the perfect position to observe the total solar eclipse. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "You'll Be Able to Watch a Total Solar Eclipse in The Direct Path of Totality on This Cruise to the Antarctic," 19 Aug. 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.

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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

2 Sep 2019

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 How to pronounce observe (audio) \
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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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

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authorized for issue (as a bond)

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