: one of the slender bristles that terminate the glumes of the spikelet in some cereal and other grasses
awned adjective
awnless adjective

Examples of awn in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), foxtail grass awns can be found throughout North America, particularly from May to December. Adrianna Freedman, Good Housekeeping, 21 July 2023 Smallholding farmers of West Bengal and Jharkhand prefer varieties with long and strong awns (spine-like projections at the end of the hull), which deter grazing by cattle and goats. Debal Deb, Scientific American, 16 Oct. 2019 These grasses have bushy florets hosting grass awns, seeds with a sharp appendage meant to burrow into the ground. Molly Korzenowski, Twin Cities, 3 Sep. 2019 Aesthetics is yet another value that indigenous farmers cherish, cultivating certain landraces simply for their beautiful colors or patterns: gold, brown, purple and black furrows on yellow hulls, purple apexes, black awns, and so on. Debal Deb, Scientific American, 16 Oct. 2019 Plant these natives to make an interesting meadow: purple three awn (Aristida purpurea), nodding needle grass (Stipa cernua), deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) and wild oat grass (Elymus condensatus) 15. Nan Sterman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Oct. 2019 The barbed seed awn sticks to their coats and can work their way into ears, eyes, noses or paws. Joan Morris, The Mercury News, 19 Sep. 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'awn.' 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 awne, going back to late Old English agene (accusative plural) "awns," Old English ægnan (plural) "chaff, sweepings," going back to Germanic *aganō-, *ahanō (whence also Old High German agana "awn, chaff, straw," Old Norse ǫgn, plural agnar "chaff, husks," Gothic ahana "chaff"), going back to Indo-European *h2eḱ-on- (whence also Old Prussian ackons "awn" and perhaps Latin agna "ear of grain," Greek akont-, ákōn "javelin, dart"), derivative of *h2eḱ- "sharp, pointed" — more at edge entry 1

Note: Middle English awne may reflect a borrowing from Old Norse, with the Old English word continued by dialectal [e:nz] (Lancashire, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire; see Clive Upton, et al., Survey of English Dialects: The Dictionary and Grammar, Routledge, 1994).

First Known Use

12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of awn was in the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near awn

Cite this Entry

“Awn.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/awn. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

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