watch·​ful ˈwäch-fəl How to pronounce watchful (audio)
: not able or accustomed to sleep or rest : wakeful
: causing sleeplessness
: spent in wakefulness : sleepless
: carefully observant or attentive : being on the watch
watchfully adverb
watchfulness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for watchful

watchful, vigilant, wide-awake, alert mean being on the lookout especially for danger or opportunity.

watchful is the least explicit term.

the watchful eye of the department supervisor

vigilant suggests intense, unremitting, wary watchfulness.

eternally vigilant in the safeguarding of democracy

wide-awake applies to watchfulness for opportunities and developments more often than dangers.

wide-awake companies latched onto the new technology

alert stresses readiness or promptness in meeting danger or in seizing opportunity.

alert traders anticipated the stock market's slide

Examples of watchful in a Sentence

We need to be more watchful of our children. The hotel is being built under the watchful eye of its architect.
Recent Examples on the Web The Big Ten is one of the more intriguing conferences in college football this year, and Week 2 sees the watchful eyes of CFB fans descending on an interesting mark. Kevin Skiver, Detroit Free Press, 9 Sep. 2023 Officially there are about 6 million Catholics in China, but the number may be higher when counting those who practice at underground churches to avoid Beijing’s watchful eye. John Allen, CNN, 3 Sep. 2023 Outdoor gatherings in New York City may fall under the watchful eye of police drones this Labor Day weekend. Charisma Madarang, Rolling Stone, 1 Sep. 2023 Upping the pressure: the customer’s decision to tip or not to tip is often made right under the employee’s and other customers’ watchful eyes. Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN, 27 Aug. 2023 Police also encouraged residents who are going away to arrange for trusted neighbors to pick up mail and keep a watchful eye on unattended homes. Collin Robisheaux,, 13 Aug. 2023 For those of us who have crossed oceans and political systems, to still live under the watchful eyes of the home government can be a profoundly lonely experience, not unlike that of being a racialized minority. WIRED, 9 Aug. 2023 Amid the 18 olive trees, and under the watchful eye of Mount San Jacinto, the family can enjoy movies on the massive screen alongside the back of the house. Anna Lazarus Caplan, Peoplemag, 2 Aug. 2023 But nearly all the stories portrayed Mr. Carter as the watchful eye. Brian Murphy, Washington Post, 27 July 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of watchful was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near watchful

Cite this Entry

“Watchful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


watch·​ful ˈwäch-fəl How to pronounce watchful (audio)
: continually on the lookout especially for danger
watchfully adverb
watchfulness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on watchful

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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