Big Brother is Watching You – Meaning, Origin & Examples

Big Brother is Watching You meaning and example, explained below

The idiom “big brother is watching you” is a warning of government surveillance and the loss of individual privacy. It conveys the idea that authorities are constantly monitoring people’s actions and behaviors, often in a secretive and intrusive manner.

This phrase is often used to express concerns about privacy violations, especially in the context of technological advancements that make surveillance easier and more pervasive.

For instance, when discussing the potential misuse of surveillance cameras, drones, or data collection, someone might caution that “big brother is watching you.”

chrisAbout the Author: has a PhD in Education. He has been a teacher in schools and universities and has taught English as a Second Language in Colombia. He is former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

“Big Brother is Watching You” Idiom Origins

The term originates from George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” published in 1949. This novel paints a bleak picture of a totalitarian state where every citizen is under constant surveillance by the authorities.

Here’s a brief overview of its origin:

  • Orwell’s 1984: In the novel, “Big Brother” is the leader of the Party, a totalitarian regime that uses telescreens (two-way televisions) and a vast network of informants to spy on its citizens. The phrase “Big Brother is watching you” is a Party slogan, reminding citizens that they are always being observed and that dissent will not be tolerated.
  • Symbol of Totalitarianism: Over time, “Big Brother” has come to symbolize any oppressive power or authority that invades individual privacy and suppresses freedom. The phrase is often invoked in discussions about government surveillance, corporate data collection, and the erosion of civil liberties.

You can see how the phrase took off straight after the publication of Orwell’s book:

Today, the phrase is more relevant than ever, with the rise of surveillance technologies, data analytics, and the increasing capabilities of governments and corporations to monitor individual activities.

Examples in a Sentence

  • “With all these new surveillance laws, it feels like big brother is watching you at every turn.”
  • “After reading the terms and conditions of the new app, I couldn’t shake the feeling that big brother is watching you.”
  • “With the rise of smart devices in homes, some worry that big brother is watching you even in your private spaces.”
  • “The new city-wide camera system is a stark reminder that big brother is watching you.”
  • “Every time I see an advertisement tailored to my recent searches, I’m reminded that big brother is watching you.”
  • “The whistleblower revealed just how much big brother is watching you in the digital age.”
  • “With facial recognition technology becoming more prevalent, it’s hard to escape the feeling that big brother is watching you.”
  • “With every email I send, I can’t shake the feeling that big brother is watching you.”
  • “The new security measures at the airport make it feel like big brother is watching you every step of the way.”
  • “Given the recent news about data breaches, it’s hard not to think that big brother is watching you whenever you go online.”

Similar Idioms

1. Under the microscope

Definition: Being closely examined or scrutinized.

In a Sentence: “Ever since the scandal, the company’s practices have been under the microscope.”

2. Eyes in the back of one’s head

Definition: The ability to perceive things that are out of one’s direct line of sight or to know what is happening around one.

In a Sentence: “You can’t get away with anything in this office; the boss has eyes in the back of his head.”

3. On the radar

Definition: Being aware of or noticing something.

In a Sentence: “The new policy changes are definitely on the radar of privacy advocates.”

4. In the spotlight

Definition: Receiving a lot of public attention or scrutiny.

In a Sentence: “The tech company has been in the spotlight over its data collection practices.”

5. Under surveillance

Definition: Being closely watched or monitored.

In a Sentence: “The suspect has been under surveillance for weeks.”

6. On one’s tail

Definition: Someone is closely following or monitoring another.

In a Sentence: “I had the feeling someone was on my tail as I left the meeting.”

7. In the crosshairs

Definition: Being the target of criticism or scrutiny.

In a Sentence: “The senator is in the crosshairs for his controversial remarks.”

8. Watched like a hawk

Definition: Being observed very closely.

In a Sentence: “The new intern is being watched like a hawk by the manager.”

9. Over one’s shoulder

Definition: Being wary or cautious of someone or something that poses a threat.

In a Sentence: “With the new regulations, many businesses are constantly looking over their shoulder.”

10. Ears to the ground

Definition: Staying informed or aware of information or gossip.

In a Sentence: “Keep your ears to the ground about any changes in the company’s privacy policy.”

11. Behind closed doors

Definition: Done in private or secrecy.

In a Sentence: “Many are concerned about what the government is doing behind closed doors.”

12. The walls have ears

Definition: Be cautious about what you say because eavesdroppers might be listening.

In a Sentence: “Don’t discuss the project here; the walls have ears.”

13. Under the table

Definition: Done secretly and typically in a manner that is dishonest or illicit.

In a Sentence: “There are rumors that the company has been collecting data under the table.”

14. Behind the scenes

Definition: Done in private or in secret, away from the view of the public.

In a Sentence: “Behind the scenes, the agency has been monitoring communications.”

15. Off the record

Definition: Not to be publicly disclosed or reported.

In a Sentence: “She shared her concerns off the record, fearing retaliation.”

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