: close watch kept over someone or something (as by a detective)

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 Now, in an election year, migration continues to be a defining issue for both the Biden administration as well as former President Trump, who promises to deport 15 to 20 million people, strengthen the wall, and its surveillance dragnet. Petra Molnar, TIME, 21 May 2024 International organizations supporting disease surveillance here walk a delicate diplomatic line, seeking to keep the information channels open. Stephanie Nolen Thomas Cristofoletti, New York Times, 21 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for surveillance 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'surveillance.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1802, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of surveillance was in 1802

Dictionary Entries Near surveillance

Cite this Entry

“Surveillance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


sur·​veil·​lance sər-ˈvā-lən(t)s How to pronounce surveillance (audio)
 also  -ˈvāl-yən(t)s,
 or  -ˈvā-ən(t)s
: close watch
under surveillance

Medical Definition


sər-ˈvā-lən(t)s also -ˈvāl-yən(t)s or -ˈvā-ən(t)s
: close and continuous observation or testing
serological surveillance
see immune surveillance

More from Merriam-Webster on surveillance

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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