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, 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

Star Trek is finally awakening from slumber and entering a boom era. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "Where Is Star Trek Boldly Going?," 10 Sep. 2018 Police started investigating after neighbors near the orchard reported being awakened by shots before sunrise and some called 911. Brady Mccombs, Fox News, "Shot hits Utah bus with passengers aboard, no one hurt," 27 Aug. 2018 The stress of being awakened over and over could have done the animals harm, rather than just the lack of R.E.M. sleep in particular. Carl Zimmer, New York Times, "Hot Heads: Why Mammals Need R.E.M. Sleep," 7 June 2018 Bowman's daughter, who was two years old at the time, was awakened in the early-morning attack that ended her father's life. Travis Fedschun, Fox News, "Cold case killing of Virginia State Trooper prompts new plea from officer's daughter, reward from FBI," 27 Sep. 2018 One poor guy in central New York was rudely awakened late last month when a snake fell through the ceiling and landed on him in bed. Lisa Gutierrez, kansascity, "He was trying to go to sleep. Then this monster snake fell out of the ceiling," 12 July 2018 Family members were awakened by screaming and loud noise, when the three apparently forced their way into the home. Brooke A. Lewis, Houston Chronicle, "Assailants sought in violent Fort Bend home invasion in which boy, 7, placed in hot bath water," 26 June 2018 Gloria Ford, 58, who lives a few blocks away, was awakened by screaming sirens earlier and came to check out the scene. Crimesider Staff, CBS News, "Suspect arrested in fatal shooting of California firefighter," 25 June 2018 For three weeks, Stratman never awakened, but immediately the #StratmanStrong movement caught on around Lakota West and generosity and compassion came to the forefront. Scott Springer,, "Ladonnis Griffin's biggest play ever at Lakota West was a GoFundMe page," 12 July 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

11 Dec 2018

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

: 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

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


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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