awak·​en | \ ə-ˈwā-kən How to pronounce awaken (audio) \
awakened; awakening\ ə-​ˈwāk-​niŋ How to pronounce awaken (audio) , ə-​ˈwā-​kə-​ \; awakens

Definition of awaken

transitive + intransitive

: awake He was awakened by a knock at the door. I awakened from a deep sleep. She awakened to the smell of bacon and eggs. news that the long-dormant volcano is now awakening a new generation awakening to the importance of political action Shortly after settling in, she was awakened in the middle of the night by the phone …— Herb Caen The honourable gentleman made a speech which drew tears from the eyes of the ladies, and awakened the liveliest emotions in every individual present.— Charles Dickens That new, different noise we hear is from a giant constituency awakening in our field, and it will get louder.Library Journal

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Other Words from awaken

awakener \ ə-​ˈwāk-​nər How to pronounce awaken (audio) , ə-​ˈwā-​kə-​ \ noun, plural awakeners
Coffee's greatest effects are exerted upon the brain and mind, since coffee is a bracing awakener. — Chris Kilham Order this spicy soup only if you like a real palate awakener. — Karola Saekel

Synonyms & Antonyms for awaken



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The Past Tense Forms of Awake and Awaken

Awake and awaken are two distinct verbs that mean the same thing. In other words, they're synonyms, and in the present tense they each behave the way English verbs typically behave:

The cat awakes at dawn.

The cat awakens at dawn.

Things get trickier in the past tense.

Our modern verb awake is the result of the long-ago melding of two older verbs. These verbs were very similar, but one had regular past tense forms (like play: played, has played) and the other had irregular past tense forms (like take: took, has taken).

When the two verbs melded into the modern awake (which was a process over many years), things got complicated, resulting ultimately in the following grammatically permissible sentences:

The cat awaked at dawn.

The cat awoke at dawn.

The cat was awaked by the mouse at dawn.

The cat was awoken by the mouse at dawn.

Note, though, that at this point, these are the most common:

The cat awoke at dawn.

The cat was awoken by the mouse at dawn.

That's the story of awake. Fortunately awaken (which was originally one of the past tense forms of awake) is simpler. It's a regular verb, which means it has the usual past tense forms:

The cat awakened at dawn.

The cat was awakened at dawn by a mouse.

As if all this weren't complicated enough, awake is also an adjective:

Because of the cat, I too am now awake.

For a detailed discussion of the history of these words, please see the The Grammatical History of 'Awaken' / 'Awoken' / 'Awakened'.

Examples of awaken in a Sentence

She usually awakens several times during the night. A loud noise awakened her.
Recent Examples on the Web Or her banging a spoon against a pot to re-enact both her mother’s futile attempts to awaken her dead father and an element of an ancient Chinese parable. Larry Blumenfeld, WSJ, "‘Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses’ by Jen Shyu Review: Transforming Lamentations," 27 Apr. 2021 On a Sunday morning that November, their 10-year-old son heard an ignored, beeping alarm clock — set to awaken the Latter-Day Saint family for church — and went into his parents’ bedroom to check on them, The New York Times later reported. Scott D. Pierce, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Did a Brazilian oil company order the murders of a Utah couple in 2003?," 23 Apr. 2021 Kelly was expected to awaken a sleeping giant, but so far the Bruins have barely stirred from hibernation. Thuc Nhi Nguyen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Five things to watch during UCLA spring football," 22 Apr. 2021 What Hinch needs even more is for his offense to awaken. Dana Gauruder, Detroit Free Press, "How Detroit Tigers' Casey Mize showed gumption when it all went wrong early in loss to A's," 18 Apr. 2021 Hollywood productions are starting to awaken from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. Los Angeles Times, "Today’s Headlines: Biden tries to reset the climate on climate change," 15 Apr. 2021 So, one day, as part of his project to awaken our inner killers, Mr. Patterson handed each of us two xeroxed pages, each bearing a paragraph of prose by an unidentified writer. Tobias Wolff, The New Yorker, "A Death in the Afternoon," 20 Feb. 2021 Diana discovers an ancient book full of secrets and truths, sending every creature after her while also allowing her greatest power to awaken. Lauren Hill,, "What we’re watching: ‘Nomadland’ to Queen Latifah’s ‘The Equalizer’ and ‘Outlander’ stars in kilts," 19 Feb. 2021 The system will even learn when people usually wake up during weekdays and on the weekends, gradually increasing energy usage just before people awaken. Kyle Schurman,, "How do smart thermostats work?," 15 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'awaken.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of awaken

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for awaken

Middle English, from Old English awæcnian, from a- + wæcnian to waken

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Time Traveler for awaken

Time Traveler

The first known use of awaken was before the 12th century

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Statistics for awaken

Last Updated

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Awaken.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for awaken



English Language Learners Definition of awaken

somewhat formal : to stop sleeping : to wake up


awak·​en | \ ə-ˈwā-kən How to pronounce awaken (audio) \
awakened; awakening

Kids Definition of awaken

More from Merriam-Webster on awaken

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for awaken

Britannica English: Translation of awaken for Arabic Speakers

Comments on awaken

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