A sentinel is a guard, a lookout, a person keeping watch. It's often a soldier, but not always. If you're watching a pot, waiting for it to boil, you're standing sentinel over it — and incidentally, it won't boil until you leave.

Etymologists think sentinel stems from the Old Italian words sentina, meaning "vigilance," and sentire, "to hear or perceive." It's a close cousin of sentry, which means the same thing. You can use sentinel as a noun or a verb. A kid in a snowball war might be the sentinel, patrolling the entrance to the fort. Wolves stand sentinel over their kill, stepping aside only for the alpha male, who always eats first.

Definitions of sentinel
  1. noun
    a person employed to keep watch for some anticipated event
    synonyms: lookout, lookout man, picket, scout, sentry, spotter, watch
    see moresee less
    type of:
    security guard, watcher, watchman
    a guard who keeps watch
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week