v. ob·served, ob·serv·ing, ob·serves
a. To be or become aware of, especially through careful and directed attention; notice: observed a car leaving the property.
b. To watch attentively: observe a child's behavior.
c. To make a systematic or scientific observation of: observe the orbit of a comet.
2. To say casually; remark: "'It's nice to have somebody to wait on you,' she observed, with a laugh" (Upton Sinclair).
a. To adhere to or abide by; comply with: observe the terms of a contract.
b. To act in acknowledgment of (a holiday, for example); keep or celebrate: observe an anniversary.
c. To maintain (silence or a period of silence), as out of respect for someone who has died.
1. To take notice: stood by the window observing.
2. To say something; make a comment or remark: observed upon the unusual weather.
3. To watch or be present without participating actively: We were invited to the conference solely to observe.
[Middle English observen, to conform to, from Old French observer, from Latin observāre, to abide by, watch : ob-, over; see OB- + servāre, to keep, watch; see ser-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: observe, keep, celebrate, commemorate, solemnize
These verbs mean to give proper heed to or show proper reverence for something, such as a custom or holiday. Observe and keep stress compliance or respectful adherence to that which is prescribed: observes the Sabbath; keeps the holiday traditions. Celebrate emphasizes observance in the form of rejoicing or festivity: a surprise party to celebrate her birthday. To commemorate is to honor the memory of a past event: a ceremony that commemorated the career of a physician. Solemnize implies dignity and gravity in the celebration of an occasion: solemnized the funeral with a 21-gun salute. See Also Synonyms at see1.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.