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 But the two groups never compared notes to observe the double nucleus, according to Lawrence. Fox News, "77-year-old amateur astronomer helps make stunning discovery," 13 Feb. 2020 As Michael Douglas once observed, few acts were so hard to follow. Dallas News, "Kirk Douglas, longtime influential movie star, dies at 103," 6 Feb. 2020 As Michael Douglas once observed, few acts were so hard to follow. Washington Post, "Kirk Douglas, longtime influential movie star, dies at 103," 6 Feb. 2020 As far his reputation goes, Jones observed that there’s a distinction between bad-faith internet critics and people with educated views. Nolan King, MMA Junkie, "Jon Jones: I'm one of the most heavily tested athletes in sports," 3 Feb. 2020 As observed in a post published on Friday by Vade Secure, a service that helps detect spam and malicious email: This Ashley Madison extortion scam is a good example that a data breach is never one and done. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Dear Ashley Madison user, I know everything about you. Pay up or else," 1 Feb. 2020 If an attorney claims an opponent’s juror challenge was racially motivated, the opponent must present a racially neutral reason to the trial judge — and, as two appeals court justices in San Francisco observed, virtually any explanation will do. Bob Egelko, SFChronicle.com, "Calif. Supreme Court wants panel to tackle racial discrimination in jury selection," 29 Jan. 2020 Walk a Labyrinth and Bathe Yourself in Sound Do a twenty-minute sound bath, walk the marble labyrinth, or simply observe the koi in their pond at the Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens in West Adams, Los Angeles. Dakota Kim, Sunset Magazine, "A Guide to Going Out for Introverts," 23 Jan. 2020 As a federal agency, the U.S. Postal Service observes the holiday. Rachel E. Greenspan, Time, "Here’s What’s Open and Closed on Martin Luther King Day 2020," 17 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for observe

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for observe

Last Updated

18 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Observe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/observingly. Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for observe


How to pronounce observe (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for observe

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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