AskDefine | Define observe

Dictionary Definition



1 discover or determine the existence, presence, or fact of; "She detected high levels of lead in her drinking water"; "We found traces of lead in the paint" [syn: detect, find, discover, notice]
2 make mention of; "She observed that his presentation took up too much time"; "They noted that it was a fine day to go sailing" [syn: note, mention, remark]
3 observe with care or pay close attention to; "Take note of this chemical reaction" [syn: note, take note]
4 watch attentively; "Please observe the reaction of these two chemicals"
5 show respect towards; "honor your parents!" [syn: respect, honor, honour, abide by] [ant: disrespect]
6 celebrate, as of holidays or rites; "Keep the commandments"; "celebrate Christmas"; "Observe Yom Kippur" [syn: celebrate, keep]
7 follow with the eyes or the mind; "Keep an eye on the baby, please!"; "The world is watching Sarajevo"; "She followed the men with the binoculars" [syn: watch, follow, watch over, keep an eye on]
8 observe correctly or closely; "The pianist kept time with the metronome"; "keep count"; "I cannot keep track of all my employees" [syn: keep, maintain]
9 conform one's action or practice to; "keep appointments"; "she never keeps her promises"; "We kept to the original conditions of the contract" [syn: keep]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ʌʔbˈzɝv/ (CA)


  1. To notice or view, especially carefully or with attention to detail.
    From this vantage point we can observe the behavior of the animals in their natural habitat.
  2. To follow the custom, practice, or rules (especially of a religion.)
    Please observe all posted speed limits.
  3. To comment on something; to make an observation.
    The senator observed that the bill would be detrimental to his constituents.


to notice
  • Arabic:
  • Chinese: 观察 (guānchá)
  • Czech: pozorovat
  • Dutch: observeren
  • Finnish: havainnoida, observoida
  • French: observer, remarquer
  • German: beobachten
  • Hungarian: észlel
  • Icelandic: skoða
  • Italian: osservare
  • Japanese: 認める, 観察する
  • Korean: 관찰하다 (gwanchalhada)
  • Portuguese: observar
  • Russian: наблюдать (nabljudát’)
  • Spanish: observar
  • Swedish: observera, iaktta
  • Telugu: పరిశీలించు (pariSeelimchu)
to follow
  • French: respecter, observer
  • Japanese: 守る
  • Swedish: iaktta
to comment



  1. Form of First-person singular present subjunctive, observer#French|observer
  2. Form of Third-person singular present subjunctive, observer#French|observer
  3. Form of Second-person singular imperative, observer#French|observer

Extensive Definition

Observation is either an activity of a sapient or sentient living being (such as a human), which senses and assimilates the knowledge of a phenomenon, or the recording of data using instruments. The term may also refer to any datum collected during this activity.

Observation as recording of scientific data

Observations are statements which are determined by using the senses. Observations aroused by self-defining instruments are often unreliable­¹. Such observations are hard to reproduce because they may vary even with respect to the same stimuli. Therefore they are not of much use in exact sciences like physics which require instruments which do not define themselves. It is therefore often necessary to use various engineered instruments such as spectrometers, oscilloscopes, cameras, telescopes, interferometers, tape recorders, thermometers etc. and tools such as clocks and Tape measures that help in improving the accuracy, quality and utility of the information obtained from an observation. Invariable observation requires uniformity of response to a given stimulus, and devices promoting such observation must not give output that is in any way subjective (as if having "a mind (or opinion) of their own"). In statistics, an observation, whether of a sample or the population, measures one or more properties (weight, location, etc.) of an observable entity enumerated to distinguish objects or individuals.
The accuracy and tremendous success of science is primarily attributed to the accuracy and objectivity (i.e. repeatability) of observation of the reality that science explores.

The role of observation in the scientific method

The scientific method includes these steps:
  1. observe a phenomenon,
  2. Hypothesize an explanation for the phenomenon,
  3. predict a logical consequence of the guess,
  4. Test the prediction, and
  5. review for any mistakes.
Observation plays a role in the first and fourth steps in the above list. Reliance is placed upon the five physical senses, and upon measurement techniques. It is therefore understood that there are always certain limitations in making observations.

Role of observation in philosophy

"Observe always that everything is the result of a change, and get used to thinking that there is nothing Nature loves so well as to change existing forms and to make new ones like them." Meditations. iv. 36. -Marcus Aurelius
Observation in philosophical terms is the process of filtering sensory information through the thought process. Input is received via hearing, sight, smell, taste, or touch and then analyzed through either rational or irrational thought. You see a parent beat their child; you observe that such an action is either good or bad. Deductions about what behaviors are good or bad may be based on no way preferences about building relationships, or study of the consequences resulting from the observed behavior. With the passage of time, impressions stored in the consciousness about many related observations, together with the resulting relationships and consequences, permit the individual to build a construct about the moral implications of behavior.
The defining characteristic of observation is that it involves drawing conclusions, as well as building personal views about how to handle similar situations in the future, rather than simply registering that something has happened. But according to Jiddu Krishnamurti, observation does not imply drawing conclusions and building personal views. He stressed the non-accumulation of knowledge. Such an observation, he asserted, will make the mind free.
observe in Arabic: رصد
observe in Bulgarian: Наблюдение
observe in Catalan: Observació
observe in Czech: Pozorování
observe in Danish: Observation
observe in German: Beobachtung
observe in Estonian: Vaatlus
observe in Modern Greek (1453-): Παρατήρηση
observe in Spanish: Observación
observe in Esperanto: Observado
observe in French: Observation
observe in Indonesian: Pengamatan
observe in Dutch: Observatie
observe in Japanese: 観測
observe in Polish: Obserwacja (psychometria)
observe in Portuguese: Observação
observe in Romanian: Observaţie
observe in Russian: Наблюдение
observe in Simple English: Observation
observe in Slovak: Pozorovanie
observe in Serbian: Посматрање
observe in Finnish: Havainto
observe in Swedish: Observation
observe in Thai: การสังเกต
observe in Ukrainian: Спостерігач
observe in Chinese: 观察

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abide by, accommodate, accommodate with, accord, act up to, adapt, adapt to, adhere to, adjust, adjust to, administer, administer Communion, agree with, allude to, animadvert, assimilate to, attend, attend Communion, attend Mass, attend to, attend to orders, autopsy, be faithful to, be guided by, be vigilant, be watchful, beat the drum, behold, beholder, bend, blow the trumpet, blurt, blurt out, bystander, call attention to, canvass, carry out, carry through, case, catch sight of, celebrate, celebrate Mass, check, check out, check over, check up on, chime in with, clap eyes on, commemorate, comment, comment upon, commentate, communicate, complete, comply, comply with, compose, conform, conform to, consider, contemplate, conventionalize, correct, correspond, declare, defer to, descry, dignify, discern, discharge, discipline, discover, distinguish, do justice to, dress ship, effect, effectuate, enforce, espy, examine, exclaim, execute, eye, eyeball, eyewitness, fall in with, fill, fill out, fire a salute, fit, follow, follow the book, formalize, fulfill, gaze at, gear to, give an examination, glimpse, go by, go over, hallow, harken to, harmonize, have a looksee, have in sight, heed, hold by, hold in view, hold jubilee, honor, implement, inspect, interject, jubilate, jubilize, keep, keep faith with, keep in sight, keep in view, keep under observation, ken, lay eyes on, let drop, let fall, listen to, live up to, look, look after, look at, look on, look over, look upon, looker-on, maffick, make, make conform, make good, make merry, make out, make reference to, mark, meet, memorialize, mention, mind, mold, monitor, muse, note, notice, obey, obey the rules, observer, onlooker, opine, overhaul, overlook, pass over, pass under review, pay attention to, peer at, perceive, peruse, pick out, pore over, postmortem, promulgate, prosecute, put in force, put through, receive the Sacrament, recognize, reconcile, reconnoiter, rectify, refer to, reflect, regard, remark, remark upon, remember, render, respect, revere, reverence, review, ritualize, rub off corners, run over, satisfy, say, scan, scout, scrutinize, see, set an examination, settle, shape, sight, signalize, size, size up, solemnize, solemnly mark, sound a fanfare, speak, spot, spy, spy upon, state, stay in line, straighten, study, stylize, submit, suit, survey, take in, take note, take notice, take orders, take stock of, take the measure, tally with, tend, toe the line, transact, twig, up on, venerate, view, viewer, watch, watcher, witness, yield
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