lis·​ten | \ ˈli-sᵊn How to pronounce listen (audio) \
listened; listening\ ˈlis-​niŋ How to pronounce listen (audio) , ˈli-​sᵊn-​iŋ \

Definition of listen

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

transitive verb

archaic : to give ear to : hear



Definition of listen (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act of listening

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for listen

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Don’t take it from me; listen to their Republican colleagues. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are torching the Constitution to further their own presidential ambitions," 6 Jan. 2021 The idiots are easy to identify; don’t listen to them. oregonlive, "Canzano: Monday Mailbag readers drill down on Oregon Ducks Fiesta Bowl debacle," 4 Jan. 2021 Now, the world can make up their own decisions, listen to both sides. Mica Soellner, Washington Examiner, "Georgia's Raffensperger says Perdue 'owes my wife an apology' over death threats," 4 Jan. 2021 In Spain, a few families gathered in Madrid's sunny central Puerta de Sol square to listen to the rehearsal of the traditional ringing of the bells that is held at midnight. Arkansas Online, "Pandemic-struck world ushers in '21 from home," 1 Jan. 2021 For more than a decade, as part of this job, I’ve been obligated to listen to a lot of Boston sports radio, for better — with Beetle, Zo, and Hardy on 98.5 FM at the forefront of the local good stuff — and often worse. Globe Staff,, "Dan Patrick’s radio show in tune with the times," 1 Jan. 2021 Republican and Democratic governors made the same complaint: many people wouldn’t listen as long as Trump refused to set an example. Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, "The Plague Year," 28 Dec. 2020 Whatever your employees say, listen without defensiveness or argument. Anchorage Daily News, "Losing good employees left and right? It may be time to conduct some skip-level meetings. Here’s how.," 28 Dec. 2020 Patrons could listen through an FM radio station, but listening through open car windows was immensely more satisfying. Nancy Laturno Writer, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Looking back at 2020 in the arts: Nancy Laturno: ‘We can do the impossible’," 27 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Take a listen: Like the Egyptians, the Vikings have long been a source of fascination for moviemakers, and in popular culture they're often depicted as blond-haired, Scandinavian warriors who pillaged their way through Europe. Katie Hunt, CNN, "Science's most fascinating and awe-inspiring discoveries in 2020," 29 Dec. 2020 Very worth a listen for anyone into women doing cool things. Jenny Singer, Glamour, "The Best Podcasts of 2020 That Got Us Through a Difficult Year," 28 Dec. 2020 This is a really fun interview—please click the link below and have a listen. Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY, "Looking back at 20 years of tech," 26 Dec. 2020 Kara Swisher's conversation with WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is well worth a listen or read. Brian Stelter, CNN, "Disney+ announcements are an 'earth-shaking' development in the streaming wars," 11 Dec. 2020 Taylor Swift has released a first listen to one of her back catalog re-recording efforts. James Hibberd,, "Taylor Swift releases first re-recording sample of 'Love Story'," 2 Dec. 2020 After the album was complete, Scharf invited Murray for a listen. Reid Forgrave, Star Tribune, "Mankato musicians make Christmas album for charity," 28 Nov. 2020 Take a read — and a listen — and prepare to never look at shampoo the same way again. Julie Ricevuto, Allure, "The Science of Beauty: How to Use the 7 Types of Shampoo," 25 Nov. 2020 Dunbar's smooth vocals, laid over an ethereal melody and driving beat, makes this anthem of longing worth more than one listen. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "First Out: New Music From Isaac Dunbar, Tayla Parx, Girl in Red & More," 20 Nov. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about listen

Time Traveler for listen

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for listen

Last Updated

15 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Listen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for listen


How to pronounce listen (audio)

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 How to pronounce listen (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on listen

What made you want to look up listen? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!