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From Middle French observer, from Old French, 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 𐍃𐌰𐍂𐍅𐌰 (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).



observe (third-person singular simple present observes, present participle observing, simple past and past participle observed)

  1. (transitive) 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.
    • 1892, Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb
      “One horse?” interjected Holmes. ¶ “Yes, only one.” ¶ “Did you observe the colour?”
    • 2013 March 1, Frank Fish, George Lauder, “Not Just Going with the Flow”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 2, page 114:
      An extreme version of vorticity is a vortex. The vortex is a spinning, cyclonic mass of fluid, which can be observed in the rotation of water going down a drain, as well as in smoke rings, tornados and hurricanes.
  2. (transitive) To follow or obey the custom, practice, or rules (especially of a religion).
    Please observe all posted speed limits.
    • Bible, Exodus
      Ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread.
    • 2011 November 10, Jeremy Wilson, “England Under 21 5 Iceland Under 21 0: match report”, in Telegraph:
      A sell-out crowd of 10,000 then observed perfectly a period of silence before the team revealed their black armbands, complete with stitched-in poppies, for the match. After Fifa’s about-turn, it must have been a frantic few days for the England kit manufacturer. The on-field challenge was altogether more straightforward.
  3. (intransitive) To comment on something; to make an observation.
    The senator observed that the bill would be detrimental to his constituents.
    • 1907, Robert William Chambers, chapter VIII, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 24962326:
      Elbows almost touching they leaned at ease, idly reading the almost obliterated lines engraved there. ¶ "I never understood it," she observed, lightly scornful. "What occult meaning has a sun-dial for the spooney? I'm sure I don't want to read riddles in a strange gentleman's optics."


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  1. Formal second-person singular (usted) imperative form of observar.
  2. First-person singular (yo) present subjunctive form of observar.
  3. Formal second-person singular (usted) present subjunctive form of observar.
  4. Third-person singular (él, ella, also used with usted?) present subjunctive form of observar.