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

For more on Juul and e-cigarettes, read our explainer, listen to the May 3, 2018, episode of Today, Explained, and watch our Vox video here. Julia Belluz, Vox, "Vaping gone viral: the astonishing surge in teens’ e-cigarette use," 18 Dec. 2018 President Donald Trump will tell anybody who will listen that Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia connections (and other alleged misdeeds) is a political witch hunt. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Trump’s favorite slander against Robert Mueller’s investigation has a very long history.," 26 Jan. 2019 LeeAnne Giblin, a mother of two daughters, ages 20 and 15, has noticed parents comparing their children’s grades or SAT scores at sporting events, often with younger siblings listening. Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, "Remember, It’s Their College Years, Not Yours," 16 Mar. 2019 Billionaire Mark Cuban sat back in his chair and listened as an entrepreneur on Shark Tank pitched her product. Marie Milano, Country Living, "Shark Tank's Mark Cuban and His Wife Tiffany's Marriage Is Worth More Than Money Can Buy," 10 Mar. 2019 Fearful of the consequences of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt and seeking to calm the street, Morocco’s ruling elite weathered the storm by listening to protesters’ concerns and promising modest change. Amira El Masaiti, The Seattle Times, "Morocco: Arab Spring anniversary brings reflection, beatings," 20 Feb. 2019 Then, the researchers trained an AI to study the brain wave patterns and deduce what words the patients were listening to. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Scientists Translate Brain Waves Into Speech," 30 Jan. 2019 In a sneak peak for the new episode of Blue Bloods, Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) decides he's had enough of listening to Jamie Reagan's (Will Estes) commands—but disobeying orders might put people in danger. Jennifer Aldrich, Country Living, "'Blue Bloods' Hints at Fight That Could Tear Brothers Danny and Jamie Reagan Apart," 1 Feb. 2019 In fact, listening is doing something, and men are not perceiving the importance of listening right now. Anna North, Vox, "Women made historic gains in 2018. But in so many ways, it was still the Year of the Man.," 27 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Take a listen to Sarah Sanders answering this question for a reporter. Fox News, "Trump and Omarosa exchange barbs over bombshell book," 15 Aug. 2018 More often than not, however, Hunt tells a story that's worth a listen. David Lindquist, Indianapolis Star, "Indy 500 Legends Day: Country-pop star Sam Hunt makes Indianapolis Motor Speedway his own," 26 May 2018 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

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

17 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for listen

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

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More Definitions for listen



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

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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

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


to move or proceed with twists and turns

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