awak·en | \ə-ˈwā-kən \
awakened; awakening\-ˈwāk-niŋ, -ˈwā-kə- \

Definition of awaken 

: awake was awakened by the alarm clock

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Other Words from awaken

awakener \-ˈwāk-nər, -ˈwā-kə- \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for awaken


arouse, awake, rouse, wake, waken



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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

In the Middle Ages, monks would add thyme, basil, and sage to their flower beds to awaken their senses. Shannon Barbour, The Cut, "Mugler’s New Perfume Was Inspired by Gardens and Monks," 8 June 2018 Residents awakened by noise, saw a person fleeing on foot. Washington Post, "Alexandria and Arlington crime watch," 19 June 2018 Postscript After dawn on June 6, Lynette Ray was again awakened by her mother, who again carried the newspaper and again laid it on the bed. Rick Hampson, USA TODAY, "The lost day: How we remember, and don't, the 26 hours after Robert F. Kennedy fell," 4 June 2018 On Wednesday, a black student at Yale who fell asleep in her dorm's common area was awakened by a white student who said she wasn't authorized to be there and called campus police. Melissa Etehad,, "A 911 call in Rialto fuels a national discussion on racial bias and police involvement," 10 May 2018 As my mind goes back to that morning, being awakened by the smell of smoke, followed by banging on the door by firefighters and maintenance to evacuate my unit because of fire. Leila Atassi,, "Families sleeping on the floor weeks after devastating Garden Valley fire, need your help: A Greater Cleveland," 13 Apr. 2018 The sleeping giant has awakened and, to our amazement, our grandchildren have come forth with the brilliance and courage of Malala married to the strength and power of the Incredible Hulk. Steve West,, "Grandparents vow to make voices heard | Opinion," 24 Apr. 2018 Mary Berwert’s childhood ended on June 25, 1979, when she was awakened by breathing and opened her eyes to find a masked man holding a knife against her throat. Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, "She was 13 when the Golden State Killer crept into her Walnut Creek bedroom," 29 Apr. 2018 The victim was sleeping in his vehicle when he was awakened by an acquaintance who was knocking on his window. City News Service,, "Homeless man stabbed in Mission Beach," 21 Apr. 2018

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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Statistics for awaken

Last Updated

16 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for awaken

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

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English Language Learners Definition of awaken

: to stop sleeping : to wake up


awak·en | \ə-ˈwā-kən \
awakened; awakening

Kids Definition of awaken

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More from Merriam-Webster on awaken

See words that rhyme with awaken

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for awaken

Spanish Central: Translation of awaken

Britannica English: Translation of awaken for Arabic Speakers

Comments on awaken

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


to reject or criticize sharply

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