\ ˈȯ How to pronounce awe (audio) \

Definition of awe

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime stood in awe of the king regard nature's wonders with awe
2 archaic
a : dread, terror
b : the power to inspire dread


awed; awing

Definition of awe (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to inspire or fill with awe We were awed by the beauty of the mountains.

Examples of awe in a Sentence

Noun Clem gasped in awe. Inches from the shelf stood a column of scrimshaw the likes of which he'd never seen. — Al Michaud, Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2005 I expected to be impressed by Machu Picchu, but now that we're here, standing in the clouds atop the world, I'm more than impressed—I'm in awe. Machu Picchu is actually better than photographs suggest, more a timeless way station than archaeological ruin. — Patrick J. Kelly, Traveler, May/June 2005 Organs began to appear in American churches early in the eighteenth century. Their glorious tones promised to harmonize cacophonous congregational singers and to inspire worshippers with a reverential sense of awe, bestirring them to moral improvement. — Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism, 2004 It was a sight that filled me with awe and reverence. a person who inspires feelings of awe in others Verb We stood at an impasse. If she thought she was getting my bags, she was nuts. I was still awed that they had actually made it through baggage claim in one piece; there was no way I was parting with them now. — Helene Cooper, The House At Sugar Beach, 2008 Most relative neophytes are so awed by having been accepted into the priesthood of specialty medicine and so reluctant to cause themselves trouble in the institutions in which they will work for the coming decades that they would be hesitant to risk offending their seniors. — Sherwin B. Nuland, New York Review of Books, 18 July 2002 But even non-birders cannot help but be awed by the significance of the habitat. All around us creatures dart and dive; birds attracted by fish and water, birds drawn by seeds and chaff. Birds with silly names: loons, boobies, cuckoos, goatsuckers. — Clara Jeffery, Harper's, November 2002 Her style both awes and perplexes me. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The story is filled with magic, artistry, awe-inspiring sets and costumes. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 17 May 2022 Back then, everyone in the NBA coveted a young, awe-inspiring Midshipman too tall for submarine duty but perfectly suited to outplay Patrick Ewing. Mike Finger, San Antonio Express-News, 14 May 2022 Arcade Fire were on hand to celebrate a scientific achievement that’s equal parts awe-inspiring and bone-chilling — the first ever photo of the black hole at the center of our galaxy. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 13 May 2022 From awe-inspiring trail views, to waterfalls and wildflowers, the gorge is a must-see destination, especially with its close proximity to Portland. oregonlive, 12 May 2022 In another study, published in 2018, participants who watched an awe-inspiring video were better at inventing novel uses for a cardboard box, compared with people who did not watch the video. Matthew Hutson, The New Yorker, 12 May 2022 The town, mine shafts, and other remnants of a bygone era feel like a mere blip in Nevada’s long timeline next to the park’s ancient geologic formations and awe-inspiring petroglyphs. Sunset Magazine, 9 May 2022 Though this year's was much less awe-inspiring than previous ones. Frida Ghitis, CNN, 9 May 2022 The simple reminder that there's a whole universe beyond Earth makes stargazing so awe-inspiring. Elizabeth Berry, Woman's Day, 6 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Russia's failure to shock and awe Ukraine isn't impressing the Pentagon. Peter Weber, The Week, 25 Mar. 2022 The arena was packed with legends honoring the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team, and there were looks of admiration and awe among the gallery. San Francisco Chronicle, 26 Feb. 2022 A few days later, Josie recounted for me the mixed sensation of fear, trepidation, excitement, and awe the first night home and the device was fully turned on. Christopher Hartnick, STAT, 28 Feb. 2022 Mitchell has long countered the shock and awe with a reminder that the film is, at its heart, about the complexities of relationships. Chris Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 Jan. 2022 There is something very literal about coupling this business philosophy with some of the most famous paintings in the world: visitors are predisposed to awe. Anna Wiener, The New Yorker, 10 Feb. 2022 Artificial intelligence continues to awe, puzzle, and worry many people. Dave Wright, Forbes, 5 Jan. 2022 And his future pro day or NFL combine measurements probably won’t awe many. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, 30 Dec. 2021 The kind of giant bubbles that Krell --- before creating his own product, before even becoming an attorney — used to awe kids at the Boston Children’s Museum. Washington Post, 11 Dec. 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of awe


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


1597, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for awe


Middle English aw, awe, ahe "terror, dread, extreme reverence, veneration, something to be feared, danger," borrowed from Old Norse agi, accusative aga "terror, uproar," n-stem derivative from a Germanic base *ag- seen in the s-stem noun *agaz (whence Old English ege "fear, terror" [with assimilation to i-stems], Gothic agis) and a verbal derivative *agisōjan- (whence Old High German egisōn "to fear," Middle Dutch eisen) and a corresponding noun derivative *agisan- (whence Old English egesa, egsa "fear, terror," Old Saxon egiso, Old High German agiso, egiso); Germanic *agaz perhaps going back to Indo-European *h2egh-os, whence also Greek áchos "pain, distress"

Note: Germanic also has a verb *agan-, exemplified by the Gothic Class VI preterite-present ogan "to fear" (from a presumed reduplicated perfect) and the adjective unagands "fearless"; the verb has been compared with Old Irish adˑágadar "(s/he) frightens," and (despite the semantic gap) Greek áchnymai, achnýnai "to grieve, lament." See also etymology and note at ail entry 1.


Middle English awen "to terrify, overawe," derivative of awe "terror, awe entry 1"

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The first known use of awe was in the 12th century

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Last Updated

20 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Awe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for awe


\ ˈȯ How to pronounce awe (audio) \

Kids Definition of awe

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a feeling of mixed fear, respect, and wonder


awed; awing

Kids Definition of awe (Entry 2 of 2)

: to fill with respect, fear, and wonder

More from Merriam-Webster on awe

Nglish: Translation of awe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of awe for Arabic Speakers


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