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[woch-fuh l] /ˈwɒtʃ fəl/
vigilant or alert; closely observant:
The sentry remained watchful throughout the night.
Archaic. wakeful.
Origin of watchful
1540-50; watch + -ful
Related forms
watchfully, adverb
watchfulness, noun
self-watchfulness, noun
unwatchful, adjective
unwatchfully, adverb
unwatchfulness, noun
1. attentive, heedful, careful, circumspect, cautious, wary. See alert. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for watchfully
Historical Examples
  • He looked at her with a watchfully suspicious eye; he spoke to her, without preface or apology, in a coldly angry voice.

    The New Magdalen Wilkie Collins
  • Mihul stood by watchfully while Trigger emptied the tumbler.

    Legacy James H Schmitz
  • For another half-hour he kept on, moving now as noiselessly as a mink, and watchfully as a wood-mouse.

    The Secret Trails Charles G. D. Roberts
  • He stopped playing, and, hugging his violin closely, regarded her watchfully.

    Phil the Fiddler Horatio Alger, Jr.
  • I hazarded, in a quiet interval when we were watchfully waiting for something to turn up, or rather come up.

    Sea-Hounds Lewis R. Freeman
  • His mind resumed its composure, and he watchfully waited the return of the slave.

    The Weavers, Complete Gilbert Parker
  • As we passed the spot where we had seen the tiger disappear, our ranks were closed up, and we went on watchfully.

    Gil the Gunner George Manville Fenn
  • She studied it watchfully, and kept note of all its variations.

  • Both the British and American squadrons were watchfully protecting the commerce of their respective countries.

  • Squaw Charley approached him watchfully, setting a shaft in place.

    The Plow-Woman Eleanor Gates
British Dictionary definitions for watchfully


vigilant or alert
(archaic) not sleeping
Derived Forms
watchfully, adverb
watchfulness, noun
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
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Word Origin and History for watchfully



c.1500, waccheful, from watch (v.) + -ful. Related: Watchfulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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