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

Nevertheless, her pristine beauty can turn the viewer into an unwitting voyeur. Tom L. Freudenheim, WSJ, "A Portrait Both Sensible and Sensual," 11 Jan. 2019 Viewers are put in the position of voyeurs—not fellow travelers on her spiritual quest. Lance Esplund, WSJ, "‘Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future’ Review: Modernism’s Missing Link?," 13 Oct. 2018 The author emerges as equal measures social historian and voyeur. Adrian Woolfson, WSJ, "‘The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth’ Review: Desperate Remedies," 12 Dec. 2018 Some photographers are addicted to war; some viewers are voyeurs. New York Times, "What Does It Mean to Look at This?," 24 May 2018 Wrestlers told Politico that coaches, like Jordan, often had to kick voyeurs out of the sauna and practice areas. Tara Golshan, Vox, "Jim Jordan’s allies are questioning the premise of the Ohio State sexual abuse allegations," 13 July 2018 The Post's Elise Viebeck reports that the then-athletic director at Ohio State actually moved the wrestlers out of the community showers to avoid voyeurs. Amber Phillips, Washington Post, "Just how much trouble is Jim Jordan in over alleged Ohio State sexual abuse?," 9 July 2018 Some former athletes recall him differently: Locker-room voyeur. Kantele Franko, Adnrew Welsh-huggins, John Seewer, Cincinnati.com, "Ex-athletes say Ohio State doc groped, ogled men for years," 6 July 2018 The chef is shown constantly tasting in segments that will send a frisson of delight to foodie-voyeurs. Florence Fabricant, New York Times, "Documentary Follows Alain Ducasse on a Quest for Perfection," 4 June 2018

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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Statistics for voyeur

Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for voyeur

The first known use of voyeur was in 1900

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More Definitions for voyeur

voyeur

noun

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with voyeur

Spanish Central: Translation of voyeur

Britannica English: Translation of voyeur for Arabic Speakers

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