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. (Addison)
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 recognised, 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. Still, when she slept, he kept both watch and ward. (Spenser) 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)
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. (milton)
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, 3); also, by the kind of case, as a gold or silver watch, an open-faced watch, a hunting watch, or hunter, etc.
6. An allotted portion of time, usually four hour for standing watch, or being on deck ready for duty. Cf. Dogwatch. 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. Anchor watch, a small, handy purchase, consisting of a tailed double block, and a single block with a hook.
Origin: OE. Wacche, AS. Waecce, fr. Wacian to wake; akin to D. Wacht, waak, G. Wacht, wache. See Wake. Find out, learn, or determine with certainty, usually by making an inquiry or other effort; I want to see whether she speaks French; See whether it works; find out if he speaks Russian; Check whether the train leaves on time.