sur·​veil·​lance | \ sər-ˈvā-lən(t)s How to pronounce surveillance (audio) also -ˈvāl-yən(t)s How to pronounce surveillance (audio) or -ˈvā-ən(t)s How to pronounce surveillance (audio) \

Definition of surveillance

: close watch kept over someone or something (as by a detective) also : supervision — see also immune surveillance

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of surveillance in a Sentence

government surveillance of suspected terrorists The bank robbery was recorded by surveillance video cameras.
Recent Examples on the Web The car disappears from the surveillance camera’s field of view less than 30 seconds after the the incident started. Alejandro Serrano,, "Video: 81-year-old woman violently slammed in brazen daylight robbery near SF’s Diamond Heights," 30 June 2020 The owner of the sign placed a surveillance camera near it to capture images of anyone damaging or removing it. NBC News, "Sheriff's office employee among 3 men accused of vandalizing Black Lives Matter sign," 23 June 2020 The sheriff's office said on May 31, Craig Anderson cut down the BLM sign, noticed the homeowner's surveillance camera, and left the scene. Stella Chan And Jon Passantino, CNN, "Sheriff's and DA's office employees accused of vandalizing a Black Lives Matter sign in California neighborhood," 23 June 2020 The dispatcher was in a 911 call center at the time and was watching video from a surveillance camera posted at the intersection where police apprehended Floyd, according to city spokesman Casper Hill. Amy Forliti, USA TODAY, "A 911 dispatcher warned police sergeant as officer pinned down, killed George Floyd," 17 June 2020 The officer located video footage from a neighbor’s home surveillance camera showing a dark color SUV in the area. John Benson, cleveland, "Resident discovers Acura stolen from garage: Seven Hills Police Blotter," 17 June 2020 The building appeared to be blown completely apart in a blast so powerful that windows in nearby buildings were also shattered, according to video footage from a South Korean surveillance camera. Choe Sang-hun,, "North Korea blows up liaison office shared with South Korea," 17 June 2020 Law enforcement groups have digital surveillance tools, like fake cell phone towers and facial recognition technology, that can be used to identify protestors and monitor their movements and communications. Patrick Lucas Austin, Time, "Going to a Protest? Here's How to Protect Your Digital Privacy," 17 June 2020 In a federal civil-rights lawsuit last year, Wilson was accused of wrapping a telephone cord around an inmate’s neck while a second nurse blocked the surveillance camera. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, "Punishment by Pandemic," 15 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'surveillance.' 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 surveillance

1802, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for surveillance

French, from surveiller to watch over, from sur- + veiller to watch, from Old French veillier, from Latin vigilare, from vigil watchful — more at vigil

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about surveillance

Time Traveler for surveillance

Time Traveler

The first known use of surveillance was in 1802

See more words from the same year

Statistics for surveillance

Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Surveillance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for surveillance


How to pronounce surveillance (audio) How to pronounce surveillance (audio) How to pronounce surveillance (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of surveillance

: the act of carefully watching someone or something especially in order to prevent or detect a crime


sur·​veil·​lance | \ sər-ˈvā-lən(t)s also -ˈvāl-yən(t)s or -ˈvā-ən(t)s \

Medical Definition of surveillance

: close and continuous observation or testing serological surveillance — see immune surveillance

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on surveillance

What made you want to look up surveillance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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