• synonyms


[ser-vey-luh ns, -veyl-yuh ns]
See more synonyms for surveillance on Thesaurus.com
  1. a watch kept over a person, group, etc., especially over a suspect, prisoner, or the like: The suspects were under police surveillance.
  2. continuous observation of a place, person, group, or ongoing activity in order to gather information: video cameras used for covert surveillance.See also electronic surveillance.
  3. attentive observation, as to oversee and direct someone or something: increased surveillance of patients with chronic liver disease.
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Origin of surveillance

1790–1800; < French, equivalent to surveill(er) to watch over (sur- sur-1 + veiller < Latin vigilāre to watch; see vigil) + -ance -ance
Related formscoun·ter·sur·veil·lance, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for surveillance

control, supervision, scrutiny, examination, vigilance, inspection, care, wiretap, lookout, direction, tap, spying, watch, bug, track, tail, tab, vigil, eye, superintendence

Examples from the Web for surveillance

Contemporary Examples of surveillance

Historical Examples of surveillance

  • It was only during a pause for breath that he became aware of the surveillance.

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • Was it the consciousness of this surveillance that made every one keep the house?

    A Day's Ride

    Charles James Lever

  • It was the citoyen Beauvisage, of the Committee of Surveillance.

    The Gods are Athirst

    Anatole France

  • After awhile, he became conscious that he was under a sort of surveillance.

    White Lies

    Charles Reade

  • And then, released from surveillance, exhausted in mind and body—he fell again.

    The Lowest Rung

    Mary Cholmondeley

British Dictionary definitions for surveillance


  1. close observation or supervision maintained over a person, group, etc, esp one in custody or under suspicion
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Derived Formssurveillant, adjective, noun

Word Origin for surveillance

C19: from French, from surveiller to watch over, from sur- 1 + veiller to keep watch (from Latin vigilāre; see vigil)
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 surveillance


1802, from French surveillance "oversight, supervision, a watch," noun of action from surveiller "oversee, watch," from sur- "over" + veiller "to watch," from Latin vigilare, from vigil "watchful" (see vigil). Seemingly a word of the Terror in France.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

surveillance in Medicine


  1. Close observation of a person or group, especially one under suspicion.
  2. The act of observing or the condition of being observed.
  3. The collection, collation, analysis, and dissemination of data.
  4. A type of observational study that involves continuous monitoring of disease occurrence within a population.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.