from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To be or become aware of, especially through careful and directed attention; notice.
  • intransitive verb To watch attentively.
  • intransitive verb To make a systematic or scientific observation of.
  • intransitive verb To say casually; remark.
  • intransitive verb To adhere to or abide by; comply with.
  • intransitive verb To act in acknowledgment of (a holiday, for example); keep or celebrate.
  • intransitive verb To maintain (silence or a period of silence), as out of respect for someone who has died.
  • intransitive verb To take notice.
  • intransitive verb To say something; make a comment or remark.
  • intransitive verb To watch or be present without participating actively.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To regard with attention or careful scrutiny, as for the purpose of discovering and noting something; watch; take note of: as, to observe trifles with interest; to observe one's every movement.
  • Specifically To subject to systematic inspection and scrutiny for some scientific or practical purpose: as, to observe natural phenomena for the purpose of ascertaining their laws; to observe meteorological indications for the purpose of forecasting the weather. See observation, 3.
  • To see; perceive; notice; remark; hence, to detect; discover: as, we observed a stranger approaching; to observe one's uneasiness.
  • To notice and remark, or remark upon; refer to in words; say; mention: as, what did you observe?
  • To heed; regard; hence, to regard with respect and deference; treat with respectful attention or consideration; humor.
  • To adhere to and carry out in practice; conform to or comply with; obey: as, to observe the regulations of society; to observe the proprieties.
  • To keep with due ceremonies; celebrate: as, to observe a holiday; to observe the sabbath.
  • Synonyms To eye, survey, scrutinize.
  • Notice, Behold, etc. (see see).
  • Keep, etc. (see celebrate), regard, fulfil, conform to.
  • To be attentive; take note.
  • To remark; comment: generally with upon or on.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To take notice of by appropriate conduct; to conform one's action or practice to; to keep; to heed; to obey; to comply with
  • transitive verb To be on the watch respecting; to pay attention to; to notice with care; to see; to perceive; to notice; to discover
  • transitive verb To express as what has been noticed; to utter as a remark; to say in a casual or incidental way; to remark.
  • intransitive verb To take notice; to give attention to what one sees or hears; to attend.
  • intransitive verb To make a remark; to comment; to make an observation{3}; -- generally with on or upon.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive To notice or view, especially carefully or with attention to detail.
  • verb transitive To follow the custom, practice, or rules (especially of a religion.)
  • verb intransitive To comment on something; to make an observation.
  • verb transitive To obey a law, rule or custom; comply with.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb observe with care or pay close attention to
  • verb watch attentively
  • verb show respect towards
  • verb conform one's action or practice to
  • verb follow with the eyes or the mind
  • verb stick to correctly or closely
  • verb make mention of
  • verb discover or determine the existence, presence, or fact of
  • verb behave as expected during of holidays or rites


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English observen, to conform to, from Old French observer, from Latin observāre, to abide by, watch : ob-, over; see ob– + servāre, to keep, watch; see ser- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French observer, from Latin observare ("to watch, note, mark, heed, guard, keep, pay attention to, regard, comply with, etc."), from ob ("before") + servare ("to keep"), from Proto-Indo-European *serw- (“to guard”). Cognate with Gothic  (sarwa, "weapons, armour"), Old English searu ("device, design, contrivance, art, cunning, craft, artifice, wile, deceit, stratagem, ambush, treachery, plot, trick, snare, ambuscade, cleverness, machine, engine, fabric, armor, equipment, arms").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word observe.


  • Even more painfully sad to observe is the way you've ignored everything we've written about OOL and its impact on your claims.

    Casey Luskin on Kitzmiller & Information 2010

  • Despite her martial nature, Zhakkarn is soft-spoken and unobtrusive in peaceful situations, preferring to observe from the background and speak only when necessary, like a good soldier.

    ARC Giveaway Contest! « 2009

  • The other thing I observe is the population growth: population growth sustains economic growth.

    Mexican Economy 2009

  • The accelerating expansion of the universe that we currently observe, is identified as the onset of inflation.

    Archive 2009-05-01 Gordon McCabe 2009

  • There is a whole category of ersatz adults who've mistaken the apparent staidness of the grownups (who they observe from the outside) for the qualifying characteristic of adulthood and tried to skip the scary merry-go-round.

    zornhau: The Middle Ages zornhau 2010

  • What the POV characters observe is what the reader hears about.

    Writer Unboxed » Blog Archive » Character descriptions: a poll 2009

  • I wonder if the case might be that the sectors that are dominated by computer technology have finally emerged as the leading producers of output, i.e., what we observe is a measurement shift.

    The Productivity Story, Continued, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty 2009

  • You are now on the second speed, which you will no doubt observe is considerably faster than the lower speed … Remember that with a motor-car the driver controls the vehicle, and in this it differs from a horse-drawn vehicle, in which the driver is often at the mercy of the animal, to be pulled here, backed there, or upset altogether, should this chance to please the noble quadruped.

    To Drive a Motorcar | Edwardian Promenade 2009

  • If that happens, what we will observe is a change in the quantities used for the two sources of energy.

    Economics for Environmentalists, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty 2009

  • "Quite often in mainstream schools, classroom assistants and teachers can do too much for a child – known as the Velcro effect – when in reality it might be better to stand back and observe from a distance and support the child in a different way."

    Outstanding team: 'they will influence policy' June Caldwell 2010


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Human beings like to observe the behavior of monkeys.

    April 14, 2007

  • obSErvE

    April 24, 2008