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

Definition of awaken

: awake was awakened by the alarm clock

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Other Words from awaken

awakener \ ə-​ˈwāk-​nər , ə-​ˈwā-​kə-​ \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for awaken


arouse, awake, knock up [British], 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

Then, a series of loud honks from the other side of the road, followed by animated waving, awaken us out of our speed spell. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "Inside the Car Company That's Resurrecting the DeLorean," 18 Jan. 2019 As America awakens to the realities of a broken criminal justice system, lawmakers should consider policies that bring needed relief to young people who have paid their debt to society, many of whom already started at a disadvantage. Peter Rezk, Teen Vogue, "America’s Criminal Justice System Is Failing Young People Like Me. Clean Slate Laws Are the Answer," 14 Dec. 2018 Frank, who served time at 19, remembers how her experience as a white woman behind bars awakened her to the fact that a nation built on the ideals of fairness and justice had developed an unfair and unjust legal apparatus. Mattie Kahn, Glamour, "Inside a Radical Experiment to Transform the Lives of Incarcerated Women," 22 Aug. 2018 The day of Misha's funeral, her son-in-law was at the service and Mary Alice had awakened to another tragedy. Anna Rose Macarthur, Anchorage Daily News, "Recent deaths put an entire village behind on subsistence fishing," 22 June 2018 Four teenagers, including the victim's ex-boyfriend, were arrested Tuesday after a family was awakened to gunfire coming in their home Monday morning, according to the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office. Anna Beahm,, "Ex-boyfriend, 3 more teens jailed for shooting into Pleasant Valley home," 23 Jan. 2018 People such as venture capitalist Rob Stavis have been awakened this cycle after years of relative passivenes. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "Ten big Silicon Valley money players behind this November’s U.S. midterm elections," 20 Aug. 2018 One was awakened with the suspect's head between her legs. Charles Rabin And David J. Neal, miamiherald, "Suspected serial rapist captured in Miami's Little Haiti, police say | Miami Herald," 2 May 2018 In turn, the sleepy industry that digital mattress brands helped awaken assisted in making what could have been a fringe concept go national. Chavie Lieber, Vox, "Getting a good night’s sleep is a luxury — and can come at a high price.," 9 Oct. 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

6 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for awaken

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

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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 \
awakened; awakening

Kids Definition of awaken

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More from Merriam-Webster on awaken

Rhyming Dictionary: 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

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irregularly rounded

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