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 Police released surveillance video that showed the moment a woman appeared to accost two Asian women walking on the sidewalk from behind. NBC News, "Video shows stranger attacking Asian woman with hammer in NYC," 4 May 2021 Investigators have released surveillance video and still images of two men who are wanted for questioning after they were spotted in the area of the shooting. Henri Hollis, ajc, "Reward increased to $10K in downtown Atlanta hookah lounge killing," 4 May 2021 But, based on surveillance video from neighboring businesses, detectives Powell as a person of interest in the case and have been working around the clock to crack the case. Carol Robinson |, al, "Robber convicted in execution-style killing of Shelby County store clerk; jury recommends death sentence," 3 May 2021 Police had previously released surveillance video of one incident of vandalism, which took place on April 24 at about 10:45 p.m. Meredith Deliso, ABC News, "Man charged with 'numerous' hate crimes for allegedly vandalizing New York synagogues," 1 May 2021 Police watched surveillance video and saw a fellow worker, a Cleveland man, 19, pick up the check and put it in his pocket. cleveland, "Man finds Direct TV deal was a fraud: Solon police blotter," 30 Apr. 2021 According to surveillance video from a nearby home, the dog walker, Ryan Fischer, was on a sidewalk, which was partly obscured by a fence, as a white car pulled up next to him., "Five charged in shooting of Lady Gaga’s dog walker," 30 Apr. 2021 When the Pentagon Force Protection Agency investigated the matter, he was cleared of misconduct — even though there was surveillance video of the incident captured by the condominium’s security system. Washington Post, "Off-duty Pentagon police officer indicted on two counts of murder in Maryland," 30 Apr. 2021 There is no dashcam video of this initial incident since Gutierrez was in his personal vehicle, but nearby surveillance video shows Gonzalez pulling up beside Gutierrez's car, at which point several muzzle flashes can be seen. Paul Best, Fox News, "Austin Police Department releases videos of officer-involved shootings that left Alex Gonzales dead," 29 Apr. 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.

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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

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Surveillance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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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

Comments on surveillance

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