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  1. a word or short phrase to be communicated, on challenge, to a sentinel or guard; password or countersign.
  2. a word or phrase expressive of a principle or rule of action; slogan: Conservation has been our watchword.
  3. a rallying cry of a party, club, team, etc.
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Origin of watchword

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at watch, word


See more synonyms for watchword on Thesaurus.com
1, 2. shibboleth. 3. motto.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for watchword


  1. another word for password
  2. a rallying cry or slogan
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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 watchword


also watch-word, c.1400, "password," from watch (n.) in the military sense of "period of standing guard duty" + word (n.). In the sense of "motto, slogan" it dates from 1738.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper