late 14c., observen, "to hold to (a manner of life or course of conduct), carry out the dictates of, attend to in practice, to keep, follow," from Old French observer, osserver "to observe, watch over, follow" (10c.), from Latin observare "watch over, note, heed, look to, attend to, guard, regard, comply with," from ob "in front of, before" (see ob-) + servare "to watch, keep safe," from PIE root *ser- (1) "to protect." Sense of "watch, perceive, notice" is from 1560s, via the notion of "see and note omens." Meaning "to say by way of remark" is from c. 1600. Related: Observed; observing.
updated on July 26, 2019