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

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
ə-ˈwāk-nər How to pronounce awaken (audio)
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

Did you know?

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 As the dwindling population tries to survive in this new world, the darker aspect of their true human nature awakens. Elsa Keslassy, Variety, 4 Apr. 2024 However, something deep within me shifted and awakened after my mother’s sudden passing in 2022. Essence, 28 Mar. 2024 The Covid pandemic marked the first time people armed with powerful scientific tools could study how the immune system awakens to and develops defenses against a new threat, in real time, in the global population. Helen Branswell, STAT, 28 Mar. 2024 More big stories As hungry bears awaken from hibernation, a California mountain village braces for invasion. Ryan Fonseca, Los Angeles Times, 18 Mar. 2024 When a family finally moves in in the present day, the electronic household helper Cassandra awakens from her decades-long slumber determined to use every single resource at her disposal to ensure she is never left alone again. Ed Meza, Variety, 13 Mar. 2024 But Intuitive Machines, the company behind Odysseus, hopes to awaken the spacecraft in a couple of weeks, after the lunar night passes, officials said in a press conference with NASA on Wednesday. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Feb. 2024 Those robots are slowly reawakening and its up to the players to discover who is awakening them and why. Rob Wieland, Forbes, 27 Feb. 2024 Maestro opens with an extravagant shot that starts on a young Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) as he’s awakened with the news of his big break, filling in for the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Craigh Barboza, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'awaken.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near awaken

Cite this Entry

“Awaken.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


awak·​en ə-ˈwā-kən How to pronounce awaken (audio)
awakened; awakening -ˈwāk-(ə-)niŋ How to pronounce awaken (audio)
awakener noun

More from Merriam-Webster on awaken

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