lis·​ten | \ ˈli-sᵊn \
listened; listening\ ˈlis-​niŋ , ˈli-​sᵊn-​iŋ \

Definition of listen

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

archaic : to give ear to : hear

intransitive verb

1 : to pay attention to sound listen to music
2 : to hear something with thoughtful attention : give consideration listen to a plea
3 : to be alert to catch an expected sound listen for his step



Definition of listen (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act of listening

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Other Words from listen


listener \ ˈlis-​nər , ˈli-​sᵊn-​ər \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for listen

Synonyms: Verb

attend, hark, harken, hear, hearken, heed, mind

Antonyms: Verb

ignore, tune out

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Examples of listen in a Sentence


I listened as hard as I could, but I couldn't hear a word of what he said over all that noise. She listened with interest as he told her about his travels. She tried to warn him of the dangers, but he wouldn't listen.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Hell, the rabbi is even coming over for Yom Kippur—a coup that Midge mentions to anyone who will listen. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," 6 Dec. 2018 Thank you to everyone who has listened to Recode Decode over the past 300 episodes! Eric Johnson, Recode, "Full Q&A: Casey Newton and Louie Swisher on the 300th episode of Recode Decode," 2 Dec. 2018 Time, consideration, patience, and a willingness to listen and truly hear what community members value is essential. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "How bike advocate Katie Deolloz gets around Austin," 19 Oct. 2018 Campa-Najjar, who listened as Hunter Sr. spoke, pointed out to reporters that he was raised by his Christian, Mexican-American mother in San Diego and had little to do with his father or that side of his family after his parents got divorced. Fox News, "Indicted California incumbent steps up attacks on Democrat," 16 Oct. 2018 Revlon x Ashley Graham Ashley Graham has been pounding on the door of the beauty industry, and for years, no one listened. Leah Prinzivalli, Glamour, "The 10 Most Groundbreaking Beauty Campaigns of 2018," 22 Dec. 2018 Democrats are listening to their base too, and for them blocking the border wall is the most tangible show of resistance to Trump’s hardline immigration agenda. Tara Golshan, Vox, "This could be a really long government shutdown," 21 Dec. 2018 To make your friend really feel heard, listen to them actively instead of passively. Cassie Shortsleeve, SELF, "12 Ways to Show Up for a Friend With Bipolar Disorder," 20 Dec. 2018 Uber should have listened to Miller's reform ideas Miller suggested several ways to improve Uber's safety record. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Uber manager in March: “We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles”," 11 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

From the Haunted Ballroom, and a short listen will prove that the title goes a long way in describing the music. Corey Seymour, Vogue, "The Caretaker’s Musical Project Is One Part Psychological Experiment, One Part Auditory Revelation," 14 Dec. 2018 All highly pretentious but highly satisfying listens. WSJ, "Why Venmo is the First App Frankie Shaw Checks in the Morning," 12 Dec. 2018 Michelle is a visiting lecturer in composition at Dartmouth, and her sound world is worth many listens. Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, "Ensemble dal Niente pianist Mabel Kwan on a playful post-smartphone look at David," 10 Jan. 2018 Teen Vogue has your exclusive first listen of the single that Charlotte believes could be her most significant work to date. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Charlotte Lawrence Debuts "Keep Me Up (Anxiety Song)"," 10 May 2018 How would the proposal force the majority party in listen to the minority party? Rich Exner,, "Ohio Issue 1 Q&A: congressional redistricting and the ills of gerrymandering - Election preview," 3 May 2018 Nonetheless, take a listen and try not to hear the album’s influence on a good chunk of the indie rock bands from your college town in the early- to mid-2000s. Kevin Rutherford, Billboard, "Eight Less-Heard Debut Efforts From 1998's Rock Rookie Class -- And How They Stack Up Today," 31 May 2018 Glover’s song deserves a second listen for its sheer creativity and shock value. Raisa Bruner, Time, "Best Songs of 2018 So Far," 1 June 2018 David Bowie singing about trying to get to heaven before the door closes post 2016 makes for a difficult listen. Jessi Roti,, "15 of the weirdest Bob Dylan cover songs to celebrate his birthday," 24 May 2018

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


1788, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for listen

Verb and Noun

Middle English listnen, from Old English hlysnan; akin to Sanskrit śroṣati he hears, Old English hlūd loud

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Statistics for listen

Last Updated

9 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for listen

The first known use of listen was before the 12th century

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English Language Learners Definition of listen

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to pay attention to someone or something in order to hear what is being said, sung, played, etc.

—used to tell a person to listen to what you are saying

: to hear what someone has said and understand that it is serious, important, or true



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

: the act of listening to something


lis·​ten | \ ˈli-sᵊn \
listened; listening

Kids Definition of listen

1 : to pay attention in order to hear Are you listening to me?
2 : to hear and consider seriously He listened to his father's advice.

Other Words from listen

listener \ ˈlis-​nər, ˈli-​sᵊn-​ər \ noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on listen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with listen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for listen

Spanish Central: Translation of listen

Nglish: Translation of listen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of listen for Arabic Speakers

Comments on listen

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