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[woch-muh n] /ˈwɒtʃ mən/
noun, plural watchmen.
a person who keeps guard over a building at night, to protect it from fire, vandals, or thieves.
(formerly) a person who guards or patrols the streets at night.
Origin of watchman
late Middle English
late Middle English word dating back to 1350-1400; See origin at watch, man1
Related forms
watchmanly, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for watchmen
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There were watchmen, she knew, who went the rounds of every floor.

    The Trail Book Mary Austin
  • One of the watchmen was on the string-piece, and saw the whole thing.

    The Underdog F. Hopkinson Smith
  • Then there were the watchmen, “who cried the hour and weather all night long.”

    Memoirs Charles Godfrey Leland
  • They are shut up, and Luke Mickleroyd and the other watchmen are in charge.

    Sarah's School Friend

    May Baldwin
  • The Prince, and the Count without knowing it, figured as watchmen.

    The Young Duke Benjamin Disraeli
British Dictionary definitions for watchmen


noun (pl) -men
a person employed to guard buildings or property
(formerly) a man employed to patrol or guard the streets at night
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for watchmen



also watch-man, c.1400, "guard, sentinel, lookout" (late 12c. as a surname), figuratively "guardian, protector" (mid-15c.), from watch (n.) + man (n.). Also "person characterized by wakefulness" (mid-15c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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