leav·​en | \ ˈle-vən How to pronounce leaven (audio) \

Definition of leaven

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a substance (such as yeast) used to produce fermentation in dough or a liquid especially : sourdough
b : a material (such as baking powder) used to produce a gas that lightens dough or batter
2 : something that modifies or lightens


leavened; leavening\ ˈlev-​niŋ How to pronounce leavening (audio) , ˈle-​və-​ \

Definition of leaven (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to raise (something, such as bread) with a leaven
2 : to mingle or permeate with some modifying, alleviating, or vivifying element especially : lighten a sermon leavened with humor

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Choose the Right Synonym for leaven


infuse, suffuse, imbue, ingrain, inoculate, leaven mean to introduce one thing into another so as to affect it throughout. infuse implies a pouring in of something that gives new life or significance. new members infused enthusiasm into the club suffuse implies a spreading through of something that gives an unusual color or quality. a room suffused with light imbue implies the introduction of a quality that fills and permeates the whole being. imbue students with intellectual curiosity ingrain, used only in the passive or past participle, suggests the deep implanting of a quality or trait. clung to ingrained habits inoculate implies an imbuing or implanting with a germinal idea and often suggests stealth or subtlety. an electorate inoculated with dangerous ideas leaven implies introducing something that enlivens, tempers, or markedly alters the total quality. a serious play leavened with comic moments

Examples of leaven in a Sentence

Noun a serious book that includes a few humorous stories as leaven Verb He needs to leaven his speeches with more humor. using yeast to leaven the dough
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Directors need an ego but one leavened by humility and open-mindedness. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "The Pulse of the Art World, Mid-Pandemic," 11 Apr. 2020 The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary’’ (1980), established his reputation for scholarship leavened by humorous turns of phrase. Adam Bernstein, BostonGlobe.com, "Terry Jones, 77; writer, comedian, director, purveyor of Python absurdity," 22 Jan. 2020 The goopy, living substance leavens the dough, helping the bread rise when baked. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "What Does Your Sourdough Starter Smell Like? Science Wants To Know," 28 Apr. 2020 Concern over the possibility of a North Korean missile test was leavened by signs of further progress in cooling trade tensions between Washington and Beijing as China announced plans to further open its financial markets to private business. Washington Post, "Asian shares mixed in quiet pre-Christmas trading," 23 Dec. 2019 Like any leavened bread recipe, pizza dough requires yeast. Lisa Cericola, Southern Living, "How To Make Easy Homemade Pizza Dough," 19 Apr. 2020 For Passover, which requires Jews to eliminate leavened foods products from their diets, some people have started stocking up on kosher-for-Passover foods early, fearing a shortage. Priya Krishna, New York Times, "Reinventing Easter, Passover and Other Holiday Meals in a Time of Limits," 27 Mar. 2020 But spices and leavening agents — ingredients like baking soda and baking powder, which make dough expand and cookies rise — have a shelf life. NBC News, "Best kitchen tools for baking cookies, according to a pastry chef," 6 Mar. 2020 Comic and disconcerting, these pieces leavened surrealist techniques with a critical woman’s perspective. New York Times, "The Week in Arts: Sleater-Kinney, Paul Taylor and ‘Synonyms’," 25 Oct. 2019

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for leaven


Middle English levain, from Anglo-French levein, from Vulgar Latin *levamen, from Latin levare to raise — more at lever

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Time Traveler for leaven

Time Traveler

The first known use of leaven was in the 14th century

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Statistics for leaven

Last Updated

27 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Leaven.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leaven. Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for leaven


How to pronounce leaven (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of leaven

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a substance (such as yeast) that makes dough rise and become light before it is baked
literary : something that makes a situation or mood less serious



English Language Learners Definition of leaven (Entry 2 of 2)

formal : to make (something) less serious and often more exciting
: to add leaven to (bread, dough, etc.)


leav·​en | \ ˈle-vən How to pronounce leaven (audio) \
leavened; leavening

Kids Definition of leaven

: to cause to rise by adding something (as baking powder) that produces a gas leavened bread

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More from Merriam-Webster on leaven

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for leaven

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with leaven

Spanish Central: Translation of leaven

Nglish: Translation of leaven for Spanish Speakers

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