[ deth-woch, -wawch ]
/ ˈdɛθˌwɒtʃ, -ˌwɔtʃ /


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.


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


/ (ˈdɛθˌwɒtʃ) /


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