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 Since late February, Iran has restricted IAEA inspectors from accessing the surveillance footage as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers has collapsed., 12 Sep. 2021 The surveillance footage showed Phangdy then briefly going inside a business at a nearby shopping center before walking down Ballard Street, according to police. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Sep. 2021 The shooting was believed to have taken place outside, and police are asking anyone with information or surveillance footage from the area to call dispatch at 311, the statement said. Anchorage Daily News, 9 Sep. 2021 Google listened to its rebellious staff and pulled out of the project to use AI to decipher aerial surveillance footage. Thomas Brewster, Forbes, 8 Sep. 2021 After speaking with witnesses and viewing video surveillance footage, Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit Capt. Carol Robinson |, al, 8 Sep. 2021 Arrest affidavits show that the police tracked down Ms. Medina using surveillance footage that led officers to one of her vehicles, a 2019 Mercedes-Benz. New York Times, 8 Sep. 2021 High-quality surveillance footage from nearby businesses captured images of the killer, which police say matched the photo Tanner posted. Peter Aitken, Fox News, 4 Sep. 2021 Investigators are talking to witnesses and reviewing surveillance footage from inside the gas station, Foley said. Lawrence Andrea, The Indianapolis Star, 1 Sep. 2021

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

Buying Guide

Our team at The Usage has selected the best video doorbell cameras of 2021.

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

Dictionary Entries Near surveillance




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for surveillance

Last Updated

15 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Surveillance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for surveillance



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

More from Merriam-Webster on surveillance

Nglish: Translation of surveillance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of surveillance for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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