en·​thrall | \ in-ˈthrȯl How to pronounce enthrall (audio) , en- \
variants: or enthral
enthralled; enthralling

Definition of enthrall

transitive verb

1 : to hold spellbound : charm
2 : to hold in or reduce to slavery

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Other Words from enthrall

enthrallment \ in-​ˈthrȯl-​mənt How to pronounce enthrall (audio) , en-​ \ noun

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In Middle English, enthrallen meant "to hold in thrall." "Thrall" then, as now, meant "bondage" or "slavery"; it comes from an Old Norse word, "thraell," which is probably related to an Old High German word for servant. In the 16th century, the first known figurative use of "enthrall" appeared in the following advice, translated from a Latin text by Thomas Newton: "A man should not . . . enthrall his credit and honour to Harlots." But we rarely use even this sense of mental or moral enslavement anymore. Today the word is often used in its participle form, "enthralled," which sometimes means "temporarily spellbound" ("we listened, enthralled, to the old woman's oral history"), but more often suggests a state of being generally captivated, delighted, or taken by some particular thing.

Examples of enthrall in a Sentence

enthralled by the flickering fire in the hearth, we lost all track of time for years these master magicians have been enthralling audiences with their astounding illusions
Recent Examples on the Web Epic stories of success, conflict, romance and adventure enthrall us. Divya Parekh, Forbes, 25 May 2021 Commitments and reversals, a continually impressive ability to seduce and enthrall, define the major periods in Rich’s life. Lynn Steger Strong, The New Republic, 13 May 2021 Juan Hormiga specializes in relating episodes from the life of his grandfather, a daredevil whose exploits, as Juan tells them, enthrall his industrious compatriots. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, 30 Apr. 2021 William Shakespeare shuffled off his mortal coil (died) more than four centuries ago, yet his characters continue to enthrall and entertain us today. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Apr. 2021 An Italian soprano whose uncommon elegance and intensity combined with a sumptuous voice and intelligence to enthrall audiences for a half-century. Anchorage Daily News, 8 Dec. 2020 Mediocre movies don’t do much for me, but Chang’s reviews of them invariably enthrall me. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, 19 Nov. 2020 Both are approachable for beginners while still holding enough charm to enthrall more seasoned trainers. Wired Staff, Wired, 24 Oct. 2020 Individually, the stars—Gal Gadot, Mark Ruffalo, and Natalie Portman, among others—will probably continue to enthrall us with their high cheekbones, but they were brought low by their own attempts to be seen as heroes. Jenny Singer, Glamour, 17 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'enthrall.' 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 enthrall

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for enthrall

Middle English

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The first known use of enthrall was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

5 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Enthrall.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enthrall. Accessed 19 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for enthrall



English Language Learners Definition of enthrall

: to hold the attention of (someone) by being very exciting, interesting, or beautiful


en·​thrall | \ in-ˈthrȯl How to pronounce enthrall (audio) \
enthralled; enthralling

Kids Definition of enthrall

: to hold the attention of completely The show enthralls audiences.


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