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

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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 To get a handle on the reality, over two weeks in April, the city's Board of Correction, which oversees the city's jail system, had staffers observe inmates and correctional staff using surveillance footage. Sonia Moghe, CNN, "Inside New York's notorious Rikers Island jails, 'the epicenter of the epicenter' of the coronavirus pandemic," 16 May 2020 The Moroccan man, who was not named, was detained in the Mediterranean city in a dawn raid by armed police after a surveillance operation. Fox News, "Spanish police and FBI foil suspected radical Islamic terror plot to attack Barcelona," 9 May 2020 The initial incident happened at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the store in Holly and was captured on surveillance footage. Andrea Perez Balderrama, Detroit Free Press, "Man who wiped face on Holly Dollar Store clerk charged with assault and battery," 6 May 2020 Thomas Tillman said surveillance footage showed the couple leaving their Wilmington home and driving the 2013 Dart with two stickers on the back windshield and South Carolina plates. NBC News, "Two bodies found inside car of North Carolina lesbian couple who vanished in mid-April," 6 May 2020 Police wrote in an arrest warrant affidavit that surveillance footage showed a white Chrysler sedan parked nearby shortly before the shooting. Tom Steele, Dallas News, "3 in jail, 1 still at large after man fatally shot at southeast Dallas apartment," 22 Apr. 2020 Huntsville police have released photos from surveillance footage of a suspect. Ashley Remkus |, al, "Huntsville rabbi: Turn hate to love after anti-Semitic vandalism at home, synagogues," 13 Apr. 2020 The jury saw a portion of the 200 hours of surveillance footage recorded from three cameras mounted in the school’s gym., "Jury finds former gym teacher guilty of sexual contact with first-grade girls," 14 Mar. 2020 The attack was caught on surveillance footage and shared by the acting Chief Border Patrol Agent for the Yuma Sector, Carl Landrum. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "'Bandits’ attack migrants in Arizona desert: Video," 13 Mar. 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.

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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

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Time Traveler for surveillance

Time Traveler

The first known use of surveillance was in 1802

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Statistics for surveillance

Last Updated

21 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Surveillance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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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

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