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lis·​ten ˈli-sᵊn How to pronounce listen (audio)
listened; listening ˈli-sᵊn-iŋ How to pronounce listen (audio)

intransitive verb

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

transitive verb

archaic : to give ear to : hear


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: an act of listening

Examples of listen in a Sentence

Verb 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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Kemp listened to The Ticket growing up with his dad driving to and from basketball practice, before getting his break after interning for the station in 2003. Jeff Stein, Washington Post, 25 Sep. 2023 So, should Gen-Z and millennials listen to these dating trends? Dominique Fluker, Essence, 25 Sep. 2023 To listen to this profile, press the play button below: Approximately 50,000 people move to New York City every year with a dollar and a dream. Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times, 24 Sep. 2023 Upholstered sofas and chairs encourage a relaxed and laid-back place to hang out and listen to your favorite grunge bands (on a turntable, of course). Sharon Greenthal, Better Homes & Gardens, 22 Sep. 2023 Members of Congress listen as President Biden delivers his State of the Union address at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. Caitlin Yilek, CBS News, 22 Sep. 2023 At a Barrio Logan Community Planning Group meeting last month, New Leaf’s chief executive listened to the roughly 75 residents who’d shown up to express concerns. Emily Alvarenga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 Sep. 2023 Instead, Sole-Smith suggests doing your best to listen to them without judgment, and to keep encouraging them to think critically about how diet talk affects them and their friends. Christine Byrne, Mph, SELF, 22 Sep. 2023 Asked about the government’s efforts to suppress any protest activity ahead of the anniversary, Raisi said that his government was ready to listen to genuine protesters but would not tolerate attempts to destabilize the country. Yuliya Talmazan, NBC News, 16 Sep. 2023
Take a listen to the new version of the song below. Adrianna Freedman, Good Housekeeping, 6 Sep. 2023 But the more successful ones learn to hire very smart people, and the most successful listen to those very smart people. Anonymous, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Aug. 2023 Enter Email Sign Up The participants of the Tanglewood Relay Run listen to instructions inside Symphony Hall before the start on Friday. Globe Staff,, 2 July 2023 In an exclusive first listen ahead of Wednesday’s episode, Clinton shares his early aspirations of becoming a musician with Team Supreme and pays homage to the greats that inspired him throughout his career. Charisma Madarang, Rolling Stone, 27 June 2023 Andrew Unterberger: The soundtrack is a very fun and fairly coherent listen front to back — not every song is a gem, but every song keeps the momentum up, and a handful of tracks do feel like real hits. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, 3 Aug. 2023 Dissatisfied clients like Muse and Slipknot, among other major players, have spoken of being left to record with a lowly engineer for a week, before Rick returns for a listen, nods, and leaves without any real interaction. Jonathan Rowe, SPIN, 14 June 2023 Take a listen to today’s roundup of new releases below. Okla Jones, Essence, 21 July 2023 The single is the initial listen from their upcoming fifth studio album, Bigger Houses, out Sept. 15 via Warner Music Nashville. Carita Rizzo, Rolling Stone, 14 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'listen.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun

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

First Known Use


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


1788, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near listen

Cite this Entry

“Listen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


listened; listening
: to pay attention in order to hear
listen for a signal
listen to a new CD
: to give heed : follow advice
listen to a warning

More from Merriam-Webster on listen

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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