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)

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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for listen

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Groups gathered Saturday evening in various areas around downtown Portland to listen to speakers and prepare to march to the Justice Center and Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse. Sara Cline, USA TODAY, "Portland police declare unlawful assembly during Saturday night protest," 2 Aug. 2020 Meet naturalists from Cincinnati Parks' Explore Nature, play lawn games, listen to live music and enjoy stage performers. Luann Gibbs, The Enquirer, "Things to do in Cincinnati this week: Aug. 3-9," 2 Aug. 2020 The program will also allow students to practice hands-on learning and to listen to presentations by industry professionals. Anne Snabes, The Indianapolis Star, "Program will train west-side residents for construction jobs in their backyards," 31 July 2020 With a now global reach, Kaniga turned to social media to educate, enlighten and promote dialogue with a platform where people can listen and also feel heard. Dallas News, "Comfort with the uncomfortable: A UT-Dallas student encourages strangers to talk about race," 30 July 2020 Fabregas says the best way forward is to educate -- and listen. Celine Ramseyer, CNN, "'It's quite incredible,' says Cesc Fabregas as great-grandmother turns 96 after two positive Covid-19 tests," 30 July 2020 Normally at a party gathering, meetings are well-attended during the day with the delegates gathering for several hours nightly to listen to speeches. Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "2020 DNC will meet for just 2 hours nightly during Milwaukee convention," 29 July 2020 To listen to the other episodes, please visit the season landing page. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, "Introducing Perception Gaps Season 2: Locked up (audio)," 29 July 2020 The exposure was largely the result of several common code libraries that monitored all interfaces for User Datagram Protocol packets even if configured to listen only on internal ones. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "UPnP flaw exposes millions of network devices to attacks over the Internet," 11 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun IndyCar driver Conor Daly joins IndyStar motorsports Insider Nathan Brown to talk about a return to racing and Friday's news about the Indianapolis 500 allowing 50% capacity for August's rescheduled race. Give it a listen. Nathan Brown, The Indianapolis Star, "'IndyCar Weekly': Conor Daly on return to racing, Indy 500 allowing fans," 28 June 2020 His Dumb and Dumber costar Jeff Daniels lent his signature voice to the project, and EW has your exclusive first listen at an excerpt below. Sydney Bucksbaum,, "Listen to Jeff Daniels narrate an exclusive audiobook excerpt from Jim Carrey's new novel," 25 June 2020 Take a listen to our recent Ideas Elevated podcast chat. Danielle Cohn, NBC News, "4 ways to lift up others during these uncertain times," 31 May 2020 That feeling, stemming from the ability to fully recover from a horrific injury, is something that returns during each rehearsal, each show, each listen of the new album. Steven Edelstone,, "Glass Animals learn to be human again," 26 May 2020 Each recipe is paired with a song, and the cookbook’s lengthy playlist on Spotify is well worth a listen. Janelle Bitker,, "Oakland chef Bryant Terry brings international flair to vegan recipes," 5 May 2020 Later versions may have more songs, or may include important new interpretations, and are always worth a listen. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Six Tips for Listening to Original Cast Recordings," 15 Apr. 2020 Many of the episodes are great sports media critiques, and a conversation last fall with former staffers of the extremely popular sports website, Deadspin, is a great listen. oregonlive, "45 podcasts to pass the time and (maybe) make you smarter during isolation," 29 Apr. 2020 After your third listen, reflect on the overall structure and meaning of the song. Dan Bilefsky, New York Times, "‘What Rhymes With Purell?’ Franglais Rappers Push Language Boundaries in Quebec," 10 Apr. 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.

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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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Time Traveler for listen

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for listen

Last Updated

6 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Listen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Aug. 2020.

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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

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for listen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with listen

Spanish Central: Translation of listen

Nglish: Translation of listen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of listen for Arabic Speakers

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