watch·​ful | \ˈwäch-fəl, ˈwȯch-\

Definition of watchful 

1 archaic

a : not able or accustomed to sleep or rest : wakeful

b : causing sleeplessness

c : spent in wakefulness : sleepless

2 : carefully observant or attentive : being on the watch

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Other Words from watchful

watchfully \ˈwäch-​fə-​lē, ˈwȯch-​ \ adverb
watchfulness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for watchful


alert, Argus-eyed, attentive, awake, observant, open-eyed, tenty (also tentie) [Scottish], vigilant, wide-awake



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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

For example, Atlanta’s airport pumps out 100 flights every hour as 103.9 million passengers move through the airport every year, all under the watchful eye of North America’s tallest air traffic control tower, standing nearly 400 feet high. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, "This Visualization Shows Just How Busy the World's Biggest Airports Are," 20 Sep. 2018 Employers are keeping a watchful distance from Chris Hardwick after accusations of abuse were levied against the comedian and host last week by ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra. Libby Hill,, "The latest on Chris Hardwick abuse allegations, as networks step back from host," 18 June 2018 Their mother hovered behind, checking their progress, tossing compliments, keeping a watchful but respectful distance. Monica Rhor, Houston Chronicle, "Girls tackle life, love and loss at Houston empowerment conference," 28 Apr. 2018 The best of his pastel drawings were converted to chromolithographs under the artist's watchful eye and published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1881 as The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings Manual. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "These 19th-century astronomical drawings show the beauty of cosmos," 30 Sep. 2018 Under the watchful eye of Ms. Venable (one of two roles played by Sarah Paulson this season), Outpost Three is running low on rations and nearly is a state of revolt when Michael arrives on their doorstep. Allie Gemmill, Teen Vogue, ""American Horror Story: Apocalypse" Is Here and So Is Demon Child Michael Langdon," 13 Sep. 2018 Sprawling gardens and lush palms lead to two beaches tucked away under the watchful eye of Fort du Langoustier, a stunning stone fortress perched nearby. Elizabeth Wellington, Vogue, "This French Island Is the Nantucket of the Mediterranean," 16 Aug. 2018 There was Hester early Saturday morning, standing alongside Vic as Matt made his way from driving range to practice putting green before the first hole, the two of them not so much providing a watchful gaze as building a supportive web. Tara Sullivan,, "Matt Parziale excelling on golf’s toughest stage, the US Open," 16 June 2018 Here’s a quiz: High-school prom is (a) a place for frustrated teens in formal wear to rub up against each other to the dulcet tones of Pitbull, and under the watchful gaze of exhausted teachers, or (b) a place for wild animals? Madeleine Aggeler, The Cut, "This Florida High-School Prom Included a … Caged Tiger?," 14 May 2018

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

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

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Statistics for watchful

Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for watchful

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

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More Definitions for watchful



English Language Learners Definition of watchful

: always watching the actions of someone or something : paying careful attention to someone or something


watch·​ful | \ˈwäch-fəl \

Kids Definition of watchful

: attentive sense 1, vigilant The community was extraordinarily safe, each citizen watchful and protective of all children.— Lois Lowry, The Giver

Other Words from watchful

watchfully \-​fə-​lē \ adverb
watchfulness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on watchful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for watchful

Spanish Central: Translation of watchful

Nglish: Translation of watchful for Spanish Speakers

Comments on watchful

What made you want to look up watchful? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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