voyeur

noun
voy·​eur | \ vwä-ˈyər How to pronounce voyeur (audio) , vȯi-ˈər How to pronounce voyeur (audio) \

Definition of voyeur

1 : one obtaining sexual gratification from observing unsuspecting individuals who are partly undressed, naked, or engaged in sexual acts broadly : one who habitually seeks sexual stimulation by visual means
2 : a prying observer who is usually seeking the sordid or the scandalous

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What is a voyeur?

Voyeur is a fairly recent addition to English; our earliest written evidence for the word dates from the beginning of the 20th century. It comes directly from a French noun meaning, literally, “one who sees.”

Initially, voyeur referred to someone who derived sexual pleasure from watching others undress or engage in intimate acts; it was synonymous with Peeping Tom. By the middle of the 20th century, its meaning had broadened to "an unduly prying observer," particularly one interested in squalid or shocking details:

[A] good biographer is always in some sense a voyeur.–Times Literary Supplement, November 5, 1971

Is a press that pries into a presidential aspirant’s personal habits pandering to voyeurs or enlightening rightfully curious voters? –Saturday Review, February 16, 1980

Examples of voyeur in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web At this point, the town voyeur has moved on to bigger things. Samantha Highfill, EW.com, "Riverdale recap: The students take down Mr. Honey," 7 May 2020 Increasingly a voyeur and a caricature, someone who has brought his own kind of sickness to Venice, Mann’s protagonist is a somber reminder of the infection within, an eerie forerunner of the elite who populate today’s ruling classes. Siddhartha Deb, The New Republic, "The Pandemic Imagination," 16 Mar. 2020 Some shots seem to be from the perspective of a voyeur, standing in a dark room, squinting through a house plant to peep at what’s happening yonder. Casey Gerald, The New York Review of Books, "Heat, Haunting & Heartache: A Young Filmmaker’s Louisiana," 7 Mar. 2020 At first, Oona is more a voyeur than an active participant in her life. Mary Cadden, USA TODAY, "Review: Margarita Montimore's 'Oona Out of Order' puts delightful slant on the age-swap genre," 25 Feb. 2020 Awards Season Is Popping Off Awards season can be exhausting for us all, even though voyeurs like me won’t spend hours in hair and makeup to swan across the big stage with the little gold guy in hand. Sunset Magazine, "The Snacks, Cocktails, and Oscars-Inspired Recipes We’re Making This February," 7 Feb. 2020 There is a long list of predatory voyeurs involved in leveraging private photos on public platforms for personal and political gain. BostonGlobe.com, "Katie Hill was in a relationship with a staffer. It’s wrong. Revenge porn is wrong, too.," 1 Nov. 2019 Pushing the boundaries of what video games can be, Sam Barlow's latest live-action game turns players into voyeurs and asks them to comb through a trove of video messages related to an undercover law enforcement operation that went sideways. Christopher Byrd, chicagotribune.com, "The 10 best video games of 2019," 3 Dec. 2019 More sophisticated voyeurs may use spy gear that has its own hot spot for livestreaming. The New York Times News Service Syndicate, The Denver Post, "Is a tiny spy eyeing you? How to find hidden gear," 24 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'voyeur.' 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 voyeur

1900, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for voyeur

French, literally, one who sees, from Middle French, from voir to see, from Latin vidēre — more at wit

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Time Traveler for voyeur

Time Traveler

The first known use of voyeur was in 1900

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Statistics for voyeur

Last Updated

15 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Voyeur.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/voyeur. Accessed 26 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for voyeur

voyeur

noun
How to pronounce voyeur (audio) How to pronounce voyeur (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of voyeur

: a person who gets sexual pleasure from secretly watching other people have sex
: a person who likes seeing and talking or writing about something that is considered to be private

voyeur

noun
voy·​eur | \ vwä-ˈyər How to pronounce voyeur (audio) , vȯi-ˈər How to pronounce voyeur (audio) \

Medical Definition of voyeur

: one obtaining sexual gratification from observing unsuspecting individuals who are partly undressed, naked, or engaged in sexual acts broadly : one who habitually seeks sexual stimulation by visual means

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More from Merriam-Webster on voyeur

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for voyeur

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with voyeur

Spanish Central: Translation of voyeur

Britannica English: Translation of voyeur for Arabic Speakers

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