qui vive

When you're on the qui vive, you're especially vigilant, carefully keeping watch. Your dog might believe it's her responsibility to be on the qui vive all day, barking at every little noise she hears.

You'll almost always find this term in the phrase "on the qui vive." It comes from the question French guards and sentries would commonly ask visitors to a castle or fort: "Qui voulez-vous qui vive?" Literally, this means "Whom do you wish to live?" — in other words, "Whose side are you on?" Today, being on the qui vive means that you're on the alert, like a sentry, watchman, or guard dog.

Definitions of qui vive

n condition of heightened watchfulness or preparation for action

air alert
the condition in which combat aircraft are airborne and ready for an operation
red alert
the highest level of alert when an attack by the enemy seems imminent (or more generally a state of alert resulting from imminent danger)
strip alert
a state of readiness for domestic defense aircraft
Type of:
preparation, preparedness, readiness
the state of having been made ready or prepared for use or action (especially military action)

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.