voyeur

noun

plural voyeurs
1
a
: someone who obtains sexual gratification from observing unsuspecting individuals who are partly undressed, naked, or engaged in sexual acts
broadly : someone who habitually seeks sexual stimulation by visual means
b
: a person who commits the crime of voyeurism
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 Even if we voyeurs are not kissing Taylor or Travis ourselves, our bodies can still experience the same chemical reactions just from watching them. Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times, 4 Jan. 2024 The ability to be a voyeur into your holiday season. Margaux Anbouba, Vogue, 20 Dec. 2023 Song’s opening scene establishes remoteness when unidentified voyeurs speculate negatively about Nora, her husband Arthur, and Hae Sung conversing at a bar. Armond White, National Review, 8 Dec. 2023 The parasitic bloom-red flower has long grabbed the attention of scientists and voyeurs alike. Emma Ogao, ABC News, 22 Sep. 2023 When mysterious footage appears of his private and intimate life, Darren suspects that his neighbor Goh, a supermarket supervisor, is the voyeur linked to his daughter’s disappearance. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 18 Aug. 2023 But Warhol as a voyeur is not ordinarily our friendly neighborhood voyeur. Stephen Birmingham, Town & Country, 10 Aug. 2023 Listeners, even those eager to project their own heartbreaks onto Clarkson’s unfolding dilemma, are nudged into the role of voyeur. Hanif Abdurraqib, The New Yorker, 29 June 2023 Arguably its most famous attraction for thrill seekers and voyeurs? Lindsay Cohn, Travel + Leisure, 30 May 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

1900, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of voyeur was in 1900

Dictionary Entries Near voyeur

Cite this Entry

“Voyeur.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/voyeur. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Medical Definition

voyeur

noun
: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on voyeur

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