Idioms

    on the watch, vigilant; alert: The hunter was on the watch for game.
    watch oneself,
    1. to be cautious.
    2. to practice discretion or self-restraint.

Origin of watch

before 900; 1580–90 for def 15; (v.) Middle English wacchen, Old English wæccan, doublet of wacian to be awake (see wake1); (noun) Middle English wacche, Old English wæcce, derivative of wæccan
Related formsun·watched, adjectiveun·watch·ing, adjectivewell-watched, adjective

Synonyms for watch

1. Watch, look, see imply being aware of things around one by perceiving them through the eyes. To watch is to be a spectator, to look on or observe, or to fix the attention upon during passage of time: to watch while a procession passes. To look is to direct the gaze with the intention of seeing, to use the eyesight with attention: to look for violets in the spring; to look at articles displayed for sale. To see is to perceive with the eyes, to obtain a visual impression, with or without fixing the attention: animals able to see in the dark. 9. await. 10. protect. 11. inspection, attention. 12. vigil.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019


British Dictionary definitions for on the watch

watch

verb

to look at or observe closely or attentively
(intr foll by for) to wait attentively or expectantly
to guard or tend (something) closely or carefully
(intr) to keep vigil
(tr) to maintain an interest into watch the progress of a child at school
watch it! be careful! look out!

noun

  1. a small portable timepiece, usually worn strapped to the wrist (a wristwatch) or in a waistcoat pocket
  2. (as modifier)a watch spring
the act or an instance of watching
a period of vigil, esp during the night
(formerly) one of a set of periods of any of various lengths into which the night was divided
nautical
  1. any of the usually four-hour periods beginning at midnight and again at noon during which part of a ship's crew are on duty
  2. those officers and crew on duty during a specified watch
the period during which a guard is on duty
(formerly) a watchman or band of watchmen
on the watch on the lookout; alert
See also watch out

Word Origin for watch

Old English wæccan (vb), wæcce (n); related to wake 1
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

Word Origin and History for on the watch

watch

n.

Old English wæcce "a watching," from wæccan (see watch (v.)). Sense of "sentinel" is recorded from c.1300; that of "person or group officially patroling a town (especially at night) to keep order, etc." is first recorded 1530s. Meaning "period of time in which a division of a ship's crew remains on deck" is from 1580s. Sense of "period into which a night was divided in ancient times" translates Latin vigilia, Greek phylake, Hebrew ashmoreth.

The Hebrews divided the night into three watches, the Greeks usually into four (sometimes five), the Romans (followed by the Jews in New Testament times) into four. [OED]

The meaning "small timepiece" is from 1580s, developing from that of "a clock to wake up sleepers" (mid-15c.).

watch

v.

Old English wæccan "keep watch, be awake," from Proto-Germanic *wakojan; essentially the same word as Old English wacian "be or remain awake" (see wake (v.)); perhaps a Northumbrian form. Meaning "be vigilant" is from c.1200. That of "to guard (someone or some place), stand guard" is late 14c. Sense of "to observe, keep under observance" is mid-15c. Related: Watched; watching.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with on the watch

on the watch

see on the lookout.

watch

In addition to the idioms beginning with watch

  • watched pot never boils, a
  • watch it
  • watch like a hawk
  • watch my dust
  • watch one's step
  • watch out
  • watch over

also see:

  • keep watch
  • look (watch) out
  • on the lookout (watch)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.