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

Keep scrolling for more

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



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 world has had a chance to watch Charlotte grow up under the watchful eye of her parents. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Princess Diana Reportedly Always Wanted a Daughter," 26 Jan. 2019 Surgery reduced the risk of death caused by prostate cancer by about 45% versus watchful waiting, according to the study. Peter Loftus, WSJ, "Surgery Adds Three Years to Lives of Prostate-Cancer Patients, Study Finds," 12 Dec. 2018 During the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, under the watchful, bespectacled gaze of an adult in a bunny costume, the president thanked his wife, Melania, for organizing the event. Madeleine Aggeler, The Cut, "Donald Trump Struggles to Describe the White House," 2 Apr. 2018 For the first time ever, a police drone will keep a watchful eye on the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York’s Times Square, as first reported by the Associated Press. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "New York City cops will fly a drone over the New Year’s Eve celebration at Times Square," 30 Dec. 2018 Day Two: The milk from those cows, having traveled to Beecher’s Handmade Cheese at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, turns into fresh cheese curds under the watchful eye of passersby gawking through the glass. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, "Connected to the Craft," 3 Dec. 2018 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of watchful

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about watchful

Statistics for watchful

Last Updated

1 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for watchful

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 express emotion in a dramatic way

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!