Definitions

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

  • n. A sentinel's challenge.
  • idiom on the qui vive On the alert; vigilant: "a loathsome Dublin politico who is on the qui vive for . . . terrorists” ( Julian Moynahan).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a state of heightened vigilance, especially prior to battle

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • The challenge of a French sentinel, or patrol; -- used like the English challenge: “Who comes there?”

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Who goes there? — the challenge of French sentries addressed to those who approach their posts.

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

  • n. condition of heightened watchfulness or preparation for action

Etymologies

French, (long) live who? (a sentry's challenge to determine a person's political sympathies) : qui, who + vive, third person sing. present subjunctive of vivre, to live.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
French who lives? - a sentry's challenge (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Those on the qui vive who need to flaunt their with-it-ness in the face of the stodgily au courant have turned to hot, with the extreme of “forwardly fashionable, at the center of attention” expressed as way hot or hot-hot.

    The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time

  • On the day fixed for the entrance of the squire and his family, the inhabitants of Sutton were on the qui vive from early in the morning - but nothing came to pass; the most strenuous watchers had retired in despair to the tap-room, where Peter Brocclehurst explained in his most oracular manner, that nothing was more impossible, than for people coming from foreign parts to arrive on the day they fix, - because they are dependent on the winds and the waves which are not under the control of any body: when, unluckily for Peter's theory, on the appointed evening - but when it was quite dark, two travelling-carriages drove rapidly through the town, and turned up the avenue leading to the Manor House.

    Zoe: The History of Two Lives

Comments

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  • JM, though not in way a sentinel, still frequently finds himself demanding "qui vive?"

    February 1, 2009