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 Trying to determine someone’s identity from surveillance footage isn’t easy. Jane Morice |, cleveland, "It’s already hard to identify criminals caught on surveillance video. Experts say masks make it even harder.," 1 June 2020 However, surveillance footage from the nearby Dragon Wok restaurant does not appear to support the claim that Floyd resisted arrest during the initial encounter. Paul P. Murphy, CNN, "New video appears to show three police officers kneeling on George Floyd," 29 May 2020 Police are also checking surveillance footage from the hardware stores. Jeff Rumage, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'More than a coincidence': Nails dumped in the road cause flat tires in Grafton," 27 May 2020 Police said surveillance footage from the area showed Manfredonia wearing dark-colored shorts and a white T-shirt while carrying a large duffel bag. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "'Time to surrender': Family pleads with suspect in tri-state manhunt wanted for deadly crime spree," 26 May 2020 The woman reviewed the home’s surveillance footage and saw Molina walking toward the side garage door shortly before noon, police said. Tatiana Sanchez,, "Transient man charged with arson, burglary after fire in Fremont garage," 24 May 2020 Williams was detained shortly after officers viewed surveillance footage that clearly showed the assault, according to the complaint. Tim Fitzsimons, NBC News, "Minneapolis man attacked TV anchor over 'perceived sexual orientation,' cops say," 19 May 2020 Investigators are examining video surveillance footage from the shopping complex and are continuing to investigate. oregonlive, "Pawn shop manager was fatally shot in SE Portland homicide," 31 Mar. 2020 South Korea is reportedly developing a system to retroactively verify where confirmed coronavirus patients have been, by combing surveillance footage, credit card transactions and other data to paint a picture of the patient’s movements. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "Hong Kong launches massive surveillance operation to track suspected coronavirus patients," 19 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

4 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Surveillance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 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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