Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun \ˈȯ\

Simple Definition of awe

  • : a strong feeling of fear or respect and also wonder

Full Definition of awe

  1. 1 :  an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime <stood in awe of the king> <regard nature's wonders with awe>

  2. 2 archaic a :  dread, terror b :  the power to inspire dread

Examples of awe

  1. Clem gasped in awe. Inches from the shelf stood a column of scrimshaw the likes of which he'd never seen. —Al Michaud, Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2005

  2. I expected to be impressed by Machu Picchu, but now that we're here, standing in the clouds atop the world, I'm more than impressed—I'm in awe. Machu Picchu is actually better than photographs suggest, more a timeless way station than archaeological ruin. —Patrick J. Kelly, Traveler, May/June 2005

  3. Organs began to appear in American churches early in the eighteenth century. Their glorious tones promised to harmonize cacophonous congregational singers and to inspire worshippers with a reverential sense of awe, bestirring them to moral improvement. —Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism, 2004

  4. It was a sight that filled me with awe and reverence.

  5. a person who inspires feelings of awe in others

Origin of awe

Middle English, from Old Norse agi; akin to Old English ege awe, Greek achos pain

First Known Use: 13th century

Rhymes with awe



verb \ˈȯ\

Simple Definition of awe

  • : to fill (someone) with awe

Full Definition of awe


  1. transitive verb
  2. :  to inspire or fill with awe <we were awed by the beauty of the mountains>

Examples of awe

  1. We stood at an impasse. If she thought she was getting my bags, she was nuts. I was still awed that they had actually made it through baggage claim in one piece; there was no way I was parting with them now. —Helene Cooper, The House At Sugar Beach, (2008) 2009

  2. Most relative neophytes are so awed by having been accepted into the priesthood of specialty medicine and so reluctant to cause themselves trouble in the institutions in which they will work for the coming decades that they would be hesitant to risk offending their seniors. —Sherwin B. Nuland, New York Review of Books, 18 July 2002

  3. But even non-birders cannot help but be awed by the significance of the habitat. All around us creatures dart and dive; birds attracted by fish and water, birds drawn by seeds and chaff. Birds with silly names: loons, boobies, cuckoos, goatsuckers. —Clara Jeffery, Harper's, November 2002

  4. Her style both awes and perplexes me.

Origin of awe

(see 1awe)

First Known Use: 13th century

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up awe? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 11, 2016

the holder of an office

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


How much does a batman (the Turkish unit of measurement) weigh?

16.96 pounds 196.5 pounds 100 pounds 2.2 pounds
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.