I know I'm splitting hairs over here but can someone confirm with me the difference between "Observe" and "Observate".


I feel there is a very fine difference between the two words. The first one "Observe" feels more general, looking at a whole scene with many elements, whereas "Observate" has a slight scientific tone and focus on looking at only one particular element (i.e. ignoring irrelevant stuff in the scene background).

I ran a google search before posting this and saw many sources using the word “observate” including an entry in the online Oxford dictionary. I also vaguely remember this word from chemistry class at school. Hence my confusion.

  • 4
    I'm positive I've never ever heard 'observate' before in any context.
    – Roger
    Feb 27, 2019 at 16:01
  • "Observate" seems very obscure, but is in use. I did a couple of Google searches, for 'mouse DNA "observate"' and 'mouse DNA "observe" (to deliberately target scientific articles)'. Judging by the number of hits "Observate" has about 0.04% the usage of "Observe".
    – James
    Feb 27, 2019 at 16:05
  • 1
    ...sounds a little like conversate Feb 27, 2019 at 17:04
  • @Cascabel thanks for the useful comment :) so far that's the best reasoning
    – Stuart
    Feb 27, 2019 at 17:30
  • I've found a 16th c. adjectival attestation of observate (i.e. "seen") in a Scots translation of Livy by John Bellenden, Archdean of Moray and Canon of Ross, published in Edinburgh in 1872. Thus was nocht the maner observate be the remanent kingis...
    – TRomano
    Feb 27, 2019 at 19:08

1 Answer 1


"Observate" is not a real word. "Observe"(v.), "observation"(n.), and "observant"(adj.) are words, but "observate" (and its commonly used brother "observating") is not a word. Many people use these two terms, but they're not in any* dictionary (that I could find) other than Urban Dictionary.

Source: https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/observating.1175407/

Edit: *Apparently "observate" is found in exactly one dictionary.
Edit 2: This is all I got from the Cambridge dictionary online; where did you find an entry?

  • It is in the dictionary and its in use if you search, so I think that makes it a "real word".
    – James
    Feb 27, 2019 at 16:09
  • 2
    @James I mean I guess... but the actual Oxford English Dictionary site names the word as a malapropism.
    – gymnast66x
    Feb 27, 2019 at 16:28
  • 2
    @gymnast66x - I think yours is an important point to make, b/c it seems like a case where citing a single dictionary as an arbiter of the English language might be inappropriate. Maybe instead of saying it's not a real word, you could say what dictionaries it's not in. FWIW, I'm a scientist, and I've never used or read the word observate that I am aware, possibly with the exception of articles in low-impact journals (i.e. that are not thoroughly copyedited) scientists whose native tongue is not (or likely not) English.
    – mRotten
    Feb 27, 2019 at 17:20
  • Sorry, I meant Oxford dictionary and not Cambridge en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/observate
    – Stuart
    Feb 27, 2019 at 17:34
  • Also my go-to German-English dictionary had the entry for Observate dict.cc/english-german/observate.html
    – Stuart
    Feb 27, 2019 at 17:42

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