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

  • intransitive verb To look or observe attentively or carefully; be closely observant.
  • intransitive verb To look and wait expectantly or in anticipation.
  • intransitive verb To act as a spectator; look on.
  • intransitive verb To stay awake at night while serving as a guard, sentinel, or watcher.
  • intransitive verb To stay alert as a devotional or religious exercise; keep vigil.
  • intransitive verb To look at steadily; observe carefully or continuously.
  • intransitive verb To guard, keep surveillance on, or spy on.
  • intransitive verb To observe the course of mentally; keep up on or informed about.
  • intransitive verb To pay close attention to or be careful about, especially with regard to propriety.
  • intransitive verb To tend or take care of (a flock or children, for example). synonym: tend.
  • noun The act or process of keeping awake or mentally alert, especially for the purpose of guarding.
  • noun The act of observing closely or the condition of being closely observed; surveillance.
  • noun A period of close observation, often in order to discover something.
  • noun A person or group of people serving, especially at night, to guard or protect.
  • noun The post or period of duty of a guard, sentinel, or watcher.
  • noun Any of the periods into which the night is divided; a part of the night.
  • noun Any of the periods of time, usually four hours, into which the day aboard ship is divided and during which a part of the crew is assigned to duty.
  • noun The members of a ship's crew on duty during a specific watch.
  • noun A chronometer on a ship.
  • noun A period of wakefulness, especially one observed as a religious vigil.
  • noun A funeral wake.
  • noun A small portable timepiece, especially one worn on the wrist or carried in the pocket.
  • noun A flock of nightingales.
  • idiom (watch it) To be careful.
  • idiom (watch (one's) step) To act or proceed with care and caution.
  • idiom (watch (one's) step) To behave as is demanded, required, or appropriate.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To assign to a watch.
  • To be awake; be or continue without sleep; keep vigil.
  • To be attentive, circumspect, or vigilant; be closely observant; notice carefully; give heed.
  • To act as a watchman, guard, sentinel, or the like; keep watch.
  • To look forward with expectation; be expectant; seek opportunity; wait.
  • To act as attendant or nurse on the sick by night; remain awake to give attendance, assistance, or the like: as, to watch with a patient in a fever.
  • To float on the surface of the water: said of a buoy.
  • To look with close attention at or on; keep carefully and constantly in view or supervision; keep a sharp lookout on or for; observe, notice, or regard with vigilance and care; keep an eye upon.
  • To have in keeping; tend; guard; take care of.
  • To look for; wait for.
  • To take or detect by lying in wait; surprise.
  • In falconry, to keep awake; keep from sleep, as a hawk, for the purpose of exhausting and taming it.
  • noun The state of being awake; wake-fulness.
  • noun A keeping awake for the purpose of attending, guarding, or preserving; attendance with out sleep; preservative or preventive vigilance; vigil.
  • noun A wake. See wake, n., 2.
  • noun Close, constant, observation; vigilant attention; careful, continued notice; supervision; vigilance; outlook: as, to be on the watch.
  • noun A person, or number of persons, whose duty it is to watch over the persons, property, or interests of others; a watchman, or body of watchmen; a sentinel; a sentry; guard.
  • noun The period of time during which one person or body of persons watch or stand sentinel, or the time from one relief of sentinels to another; hence, a division of the night, when the precautionary setting of a watch is most generally necessary; period of time; hour.
  • noun Nautical:


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

[Middle English wacchen, from Old English wæccan, to watch, be awake; see weg- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

As a noun, from Middle English wacche, from Old English wæċċe. See below for verb form.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

As a verb, from Middle English wacchen, from Old English wæċċan (from the same root as its synonym and doublet wacian, which lead to wake in modern English), ultimately from Proto-Germanic *wakōnan, *wakjanan. Cognate with West Frisian weitsje ("to wake, watch"), Dutch waken ("to wake, watch"), German wachen ("to wake, watch").


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  • In a man-of-war, and in some merchantmen, this alternation of watches is kept up throughout the twenty-four hours; but our ship, like most merchantmen, had “all hands” from twelve o’clock till dark, except in bad weather, when we had “watch and watch.

    Chapter III. Ship’s Duties-Tropics 1909

  • If a watch, it can be said, "Your friends are growing a little suspicious of you, and, after due deliberation, they have determined to a place _a watch_ upon you."

    Toasts and Forms of Public Address for Those Who Wish to Say the Right Thing in the Right Way William Pittenger 1872

  • When a spy was sent from Ghadames to watch the Shânbah and their approaches round the country, on the eve of my departure from that place, people went up a ruined tower, situated on a high ground, and apparently built specially for the purpose, _to watch_ the return of the spy.

    Travels in the Great Desert of Sahara, in the Years of 1845 and 1846 James Richardson 1828

  • ~ where got real ... already said its fictional, how can be real. haben watch and dun intend to watch~ its NOT as great as its hyped while it can be some sort of a transition fun if theres nothing much else keen to go for at the moment or simply out of personal interest Reviews ruhuaa 2009

  • -- _A Narrative, etc. _, by W. Bligh, 1790, pp. 23, 24.] {100} [121] [ "[As] our lodgings were very miserable and confined, I had only in my power to remedy the latter defect, by putting ourselves _at watch and watch_; so that _one half_ always sat up, while the other half

    The Works of Lord Byron. Vol. 6 George Gordon Byron Byron 1806

  • Other friend, seeing the watch for the first time, sans time display: "* knocks on watch*

    Original Signal - Transmitting Gadgets 2008

  • It is probable that the term watch was given to each of these divisions, from the practice of placing sentinels around the camp in time of war, or in cities, to watch or guard the camp or city, and that they were at first relieved three times in the night, but under the Romans four times.

    Barnes New Testament Notes 1949

  • If you dont know the term watch the movie speechless.

    Original Signal - Transmitting Buzz 2009

  • Do you really think that simply being in possession of this watch is the reason they are at Guantanamo?

    President Obama's Watch - Anil Dash 2009

  • In the Lost world, a watch is almost useless, and the calendar strictly a suggestion.

    'Lost': When are we? 2009

  • He approached the team right away and accused them of “watch muling,” i.e. sharing a GPS device between runners.

    Why Did an Unofficial Run Across the Country Turn into Running Internet Drama? Martin Fritz Huber 2023


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  • In nautical terminology, the time a sentry stands watch or a ship's crew is on duty, equal to 4 hours on both land and sea. At sea, the evening watch is often divided into two shorter watches called dog watches. During dog watches, sailors' watch assignments rotate through the day instead of falling at the same hours every day. Watches at sea are divided into 8 bells (4 bells for dog watches).

    November 7, 2007