General English


  • noun a fielder
    Citation ‘The “watches” are placed more behind the wicket, since the introduction of Round bowling, than they were formerly’ (Practical Hints on Cricket 1843, frontispiece)


  • noun a group of people who patrol the streets to maintain law and order


  • noun a small clock which is normally attached to a person’s wrist
  • noun a period of daily duty on a ship
  • noun a detachment of men assigned to guard a location
  • verb to look at an area of ground, in order to see any activity which might occur there
  • verb to look at a person, in order to see if he does something
  • verb to guard a person or thing


  • noun a small clock worn on the arm or carried in a pocket
  • verb to look at something that is happening or that is being shown

Origin & History of “watch”

Ultimately, watch and wake are the same word. The two verbs share a common ancestor (prehistoric Germanic *wakōjan), and to begin with watch was used for ‘be awake’ (‘He sleepeth on the day and watcheth all the night’, John Lydgate, 1430). The notion of being ‘alert and vigilant’, of being ‘on the look-out’, is implicit in that of being ‘awake’ (indeed, vigil and vigilant are members of the same word family), but watch did not develop fully into ‘observe, look at closely’ until the 14th century. The sort of watch that tells the time is probably so called not because you look at it to see what the time is, but because originally it woke you up. The earliest records of the noun’s application to a timepiece (in the 15th century) refer to an ‘alarm clock’; it was not used for what we would today recognize as a ‘watch’ until the end of the 16th century.