[woch-muh n]

noun, plural watch·men.

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 word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at watch, man1
Related formswatch·man·ly, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for watchmen

Contemporary Examples of watchmen

Historical Examples of watchmen

  • 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.”


    Charles Godfrey Leland

  • They are shut up, and Luke Mickleroyd and the other watchmen are in charge.

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

    The Young Duke

    Benjamin Disraeli

British Dictionary definitions for watchmen


noun plural -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

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