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

So, the woman on the front lines of Africa's burgeoning e-commerce industry stayed on the phone, listening to directions: Look for the ice cream cart. Washington Post, "The ‘Amazon of Africa’ faces a big challenge: No addresses," 4 Aug. 2019 Dylan was still very new to New York, and had spent the past several months gigging around and inventing his back story to anyone who would listen. Eric Harvey, Los Angeles Times, "Remember rock stars? With Bob Dylan and ‘Dont Look Back,’ D.A. Pennebaker invented the ideal," 4 Aug. 2019 Let people opt in Just like Google and Amazon before, Apple has been caught having contractors listen to your Siri conversations without telling anyone about it. Alex Baker-whitcomb, WIRED, "A Voracious Vineyard-Killer, Apple's Siri Snoopers, and More News," 2 Aug. 2019 Or having a picnic and listening to cumbia and reggaeton, which both women love doing. Outside Online, "Meet the Women Behind LatinXhikers," 2 Aug. 2019 Experienced inspectors will then operate the rides and listen to the mechanisms to make sure everything runs smoothly. William Langhorne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Inspectors check state fair rides for safety starting 10 days before opening; here's how the process works," 1 Aug. 2019 The ceremony was as usual, in a tiny white church, where everyone sat packed like teeth and listened to short, glorious off-key songs sung by a ten-year-old girl, who was the sister of the new baby. Anne Carson, The New Yorker, "An Evening with Joseph Conrad," 1 Aug. 2019 Preventing the spread of the virus also means listening to the chickens. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Rare, Mosquito-Borne Virus Found in Several Chickens in Florida," 1 Aug. 2019 Playtime for Prince meant listening to broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera and simultaneously staging them in his living room at home. Chris Koseluk, The Hollywood Reporter, "Hal Prince, King of the Broadway Musical, Dies at 91," 31 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Take a listen to the incredible cover above and get ready to have your entire perspective of Jessie J shift in the process. Sydney Bucksbaum,, "Jessie J's powerful cover of 'On My Own' will make your jaw drop," 1 Aug. 2019 Take a listen to the new English version of the song below. Tamar Herman, Billboard, "NCT 127 Release English Version Of 'Highway to Heaven': Listen," 18 July 2019 While the primary audience will be Christians seeking on-demand sermons, Osteen’s unique position within his community may make the show an informative listen even for atheists. New York Times, "8 Podcasts for the Spiritual Searcher," 21 June 2019 But this is a score that rewards a careful listen and much of the writing feels painfully wise. Chris Jones,, "Firebrand's 'Queen of the Mist' tells the painful true story of the woman who survived Niagara Falls," 11 June 2019 Spotify represents nearly one-fifth of all listens, and smaller platforms make up the remainder. Ashley Carman, The Verge, "NPR wants to know what podcast ads you skip," 27 Dec. 2018 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

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

7 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 shake or wave menacingly

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