sharp·​en | \ˈshär-pən \
sharpened; sharpening\ˈshärp-​niŋ, ˈshär-​pə-​ \

Definition of sharpen 

transitive verb

: to make sharp or sharper especially : hone

intransitive verb

: to become sharp or sharper

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from sharpen

sharpener \ˈshärp-​nər, ˈshär-​pə-​ \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for sharpen


edge, grind, hone, stone, strop, whet


blunt, dull

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of sharpen in a Sentence

Can you sharpen the image? The lecture sharpened my understanding of the topic. The outlines of the mountains sharpened as we got closer.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The rhetoric aside, the reworking of the agreement shows a sharpening focus on labor and a growing reluctance to allow corporations to move jobs easily to foreign countries. William Mauldin, WSJ, "Bush’s Trade Legacy on the Line as Trump Attempts to Replace Nafta," 5 Dec. 2018 And better for your career to have the sharpening effect kids have on priorities, perspective and time-management. Carolyn Hax, The Seattle Times, "Her family doesn’t support the idea of her being a single mom," 7 Nov. 2018 Sales teams and trial attorneys could sharpen their arguments through an AI system capable of debating, while researchers and decision-makers could benefit from the pro and con arguments that Debater could generate. Kevin Kelleher, Fortune, "IBM's Jeopardy-Winning AI Is Now Ready to Debate You," 19 June 2018 As his defensive game sharpened, so did the offensive end. Matthew Defranks,, "Bob Boughner reveals the three Panthers who have surprised him most this season," 22 Mar. 2018 The big problem for Obama going forward doesn't have anything to do with reporters ragging on Tony Rezko, flogging the Austan Goolsbee flap or sharpening their stories in shame after Case in point: Pennsylvania. Newsweek, "Analysis," 14 Mar. 2018 Competitive edge just might sharpen next election season. Michael Pincus, Teen Vogue, "Losing in the Midterm Elections Isn’t the End," 9 Nov. 2018 Participants must also sharpen their cold and wet weather survival skills as frequent storms smash into the Southeast Alaskan coast from the Aleutian Islands. Scott Yorko, Popular Mechanics, "Back to Alaska: How a Legendary Glacier Adventure Almost Died When the World Needed It Most," 12 Sep. 2018 Three-ring binders and sharpened pencils, three-cheese tortellini and shaved Parmesan. Rebekah Denn, The Seattle Times, "Savoring the school lunch — and the connection of the routine," 5 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sharpen.' 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 sharpen

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sharpen

Statistics for sharpen

Last Updated

10 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sharpen

The first known use of sharpen was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for sharpen



English Language Learners Definition of sharpen

: to make (something) sharp or sharper

: to make (something) clearer or more distinct

: to become clearer or more distinct


sharp·​en | \ˈshär-pən \
sharpened; sharpening

Kids Definition of sharpen

: to make or become sharp or sharper I sharpened the pencil's point.

Other Words from sharpen

sharpener noun

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on sharpen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sharpen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sharpen

Spanish Central: Translation of sharpen

Nglish: Translation of sharpen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sharpen for Arabic Speakers

Comments on sharpen

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


to enclose within walls

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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