[deth-woch, -wawch]


a vigil beside a dying or dead person.
a guard set over a condemned person before execution.
Also called deathwatch beetle. any of several beetles of the family Anobiidae that make a ticking sound as they bore through wood: the sound was once believed to be an omen of death.


Nearby words

  1. deathlike,
  2. deathly,
  3. deathplace,
  4. deathsman,
  5. deathtrap,
  6. deathy,
  7. deattribute,
  8. deattribution,
  9. deauville,
  10. deave

Origin of deathwatch

First recorded in 1660–70; death + watch Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for deathwatch

  • It sounds to me like the echoing tick, tick of some great beetle; like the sort of noise which a deathwatch makes, you know.

  • The deathwatch, like conscience, doth make cowards of us all.

    George Cruikshank's Omnibus|George Cruikshank
  • In the wainscot of the room a deathwatch ticked its doleful omen.

    The Golden Dog|William Kirby
  • Every pulse-beat is in exact time with the cricket's chant and the tickings of the deathwatch in the wall.

    Excursions and Poems|Henry David Thoreau

British Dictionary definitions for deathwatch



a vigil held beside a dying or dead person
deathwatch beetle a beetle, Xestobium rufovillosum, whose woodboring larvae are a serious pest. The adult produces a rapid tapping sound with its head that was once popularly supposed to presage deathSee also anobiid
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