The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
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. ]
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.
Shepherds keeping watch by night. --Milton.
All the long night their mournful watch they keep.
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
Still, when she slept, he kept both watch and
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.
2. One who watches, or those who watch; a watchman, or a body
of watchmen; a sentry; a guard.
Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch; go your way,
make it as sure as ye can. --Matt. xxvii.
3. The post or office of a watchman; also, the place where a
watchman is posted, or where a guard is kept.
He upbraids Iago, that he made him
Brave me upon the watch. --Shak.
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.
I did stand my watch upon the hill. --Shak.
Might we but hear . . .
Or whistle from the lodge, or village cock
Count the night watches to his feathery dames.
5. A small timepiece, or chronometer, to be carried about the
person, the machinery of which is moved by a spring.
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.
(a) An allotted portion of time, usually four hour for
standing watch, or being on deck ready for duty. Cf.
(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
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
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.
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.
(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.