To be on the watch


To be on the watch
Watch Watch (w[o^]ch), n. [OE. wacche, AS. w[ae]cce, fr. wacian to wake; akin to D. wacht, waak, G. wacht, wache. [root]134. See {Wake}, v. i. ] [1913 Webster] 1. The act of watching; forbearance of sleep; vigil; wakeful, vigilant, or constantly observant attention; close observation; guard; preservative or preventive vigilance; formerly, a watching or guarding by night. [1913 Webster]

Shepherds keeping watch by night. --Milton. [1913 Webster]

All the long night their mournful watch they keep. --Addison. [1913 Webster]

Note: Watch was formerly distinguished from ward, the former signifying a watching or guarding by night, and the latter a watching, guarding, or protecting by day Hence, they were not unfrequently used together, especially in the phrase to keep watch and ward, to denote continuous and uninterrupted vigilance or protection, or both watching and guarding. This distinction is now rarely recognized, watch being used to signify a watching or guarding both by night and by day, and ward, which is now rarely used, having simply the meaning of guard, or protection, without reference to time. [1913 Webster]

Still, when she slept, he kept both watch and ward. --Spenser. [1913 Webster]

Ward, guard, or custodia, is chiefly applied to the daytime, in order to apprehend rioters, and robbers on the highway . . . Watch, is properly applicable to the night only, . . . and it begins when ward ends, and ends when that begins. --Blackstone. [1913 Webster]

2. One who watches, or those who watch; a watchman, or a body of watchmen; a sentry; a guard. [1913 Webster]

Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch; go your way, make it as sure as ye can. --Matt. xxvii. 65. [1913 Webster]

3. The post or office of a watchman; also, the place where a watchman is posted, or where a guard is kept. [1913 Webster]

He upbraids Iago, that he made him Brave me upon the watch. --Shak. [1913 Webster]

4. The period of the night during which a person does duty as a sentinel, or guard; the time from the placing of a sentinel till his relief; hence, a division of the night. [1913 Webster]

I did stand my watch upon the hill. --Shak. [1913 Webster]

Might we but hear . . . Or whistle from the lodge, or village cock Count the night watches to his feathery dames. --Milton. [1913 Webster]

5. A small timepiece, or chronometer, to be carried about the person, the machinery of which is moved by a spring. [1913 Webster]

Note: Watches are often distinguished by the kind of escapement used, as an {anchor watch}, a {lever watch}, a {chronometer watch}, etc. (see the Note under {Escapement}, n., 3); also, by the kind of case, as a {gold} or {silver watch}, an {open-faced watch}, a {hunting watch}, or {hunter}, etc. [1913 Webster]

6. (Naut.) (a) An allotted portion of time, usually four hour for standing watch, or being on deck ready for duty. Cf. {Dogwatch}. (b) That part, usually one half, of the officers and crew, who together attend to the working of a vessel for an allotted time, usually four hours. The watches are designated as the {port watch}, and the {starboard watch}. [1913 Webster]

{Anchor watch} (Naut.), a detail of one or more men who keep watch on deck when a vessel is at anchor.

{To be on the watch}, to be looking steadily for some event.

{Watch and ward} (Law), the charge or care of certain officers to keep a watch by night and a guard by day in towns, cities, and other districts, for the preservation of the public peace. --Wharton. --Burrill.

{Watch and watch} (Naut.), the regular alternation in being on watch and off watch of the two watches into which a ship's crew is commonly divided.

{Watch barrel}, the brass box in a watch, containing the mainspring.

{Watch bell} (Naut.), a bell struck when the half-hour glass is run out, or at the end of each half hour. --Craig.

{Watch bill} (Naut.), a list of the officers and crew of a ship as divided into watches, with their stations. --Totten.

{Watch case}, the case, or outside covering, of a watch; also, a case for holding a watch, or in which it is kept.

{Watch chain}. Same as {watch guard}, below.

{Watch clock}, a watchman's clock; see under {Watchman}.

{Watch fire}, a fire lighted at night, as a signal, or for the use of a watch or guard.

{Watch glass}. (a) A concavo-convex glass for covering the face, or dial, of a watch; -- also called {watch crystal}. (b) (Naut.) A half-hour glass used to measure the time of a watch on deck.

{Watch guard}, a chain or cord by which a watch is attached to the person.

{Watch gun} (Naut.), a gun sometimes fired on shipboard at 8 p. m., when the night watch begins.

{Watch light}, a low-burning lamp used by watchers at night; formerly, a candle having a rush wick.

{Watch night}, The last night of the year; -- so called by the Methodists, Moravians, and others, who observe it by holding religious meetings lasting until after midnight.

{Watch paper}, an old-fashioned ornament for the inside of a watch case, made of paper cut in some fanciful design, as a vase with flowers, etc.

{Watch tackle} (Naut.), a small, handy purchase, consisting of a tailed double block, and a single block with a hook. [1913 Webster]


The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

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