awak·​en ə-ˈwā-kən How to pronounce awaken (audio)
awakened; awakening ə-ˈwāk-niŋ How to pronounce awaken (audio)
; awakens

transitive + intransitive

: awake
He was awakened by a knock at the door.
I awakened from a deep sleep.
She awakened to the smell of bacon and eggs.
news that the long-dormant volcano is now awakening
a new generation awakening to the importance of political action
Shortly after settling in, she was awakened in the middle of the night by the phone …Herb Caen
The honourable gentleman made a speech which drew tears from the eyes of the ladies, and awakened the liveliest emotions in every individual present.Charles Dickens
That new, different noise we hear is from a giant constituency awakening in our field, and it will get louder.Library Journal
ə-ˈwāk-nər How to pronounce awaken (audio)
plural awakeners
Coffee's greatest effects are exerted upon the brain and mind, since coffee is a bracing awakener. Chris Kilham
Order this spicy soup only if you like a real palate awakener. Karola Saekel

Did you know?

The Past Tense Forms of Awake and Awaken

Awake and awaken are two distinct verbs that mean the same thing. In other words, they're synonyms, and in the present tense they each behave the way English verbs typically behave:

The cat awakes at dawn.

The cat awakens at dawn.

Things get trickier in the past tense.

Our modern verb awake is the result of the long-ago melding of two older verbs. These verbs were very similar, but one had regular past tense forms (like play: played, has played) and the other had irregular past tense forms (like take: took, has taken).

When the two verbs melded into the modern awake (which was a process over many years), things got complicated, resulting ultimately in the following grammatically permissible sentences:

The cat awaked at dawn.

The cat awoke at dawn.

The cat was awaked by the mouse at dawn.

The cat was awoken by the mouse at dawn.

Note, though, that at this point, these are the most common:

The cat awoke at dawn.

The cat was awoken by the mouse at dawn.

That's the story of awake. Fortunately awaken (which was originally one of the past tense forms of awake) is simpler. It's a regular verb, which means it has the usual past tense forms:

The cat awakened at dawn.

The cat was awakened at dawn by a mouse.

As if all this weren't complicated enough, awake is also an adjective:

Because of the cat, I too am now awake.

For a detailed discussion of the history of these words, please see the The Grammatical History of 'Awaken' / 'Awoken' / 'Awakened'.

Examples of awaken in a Sentence

She usually awakens several times during the night. A loud noise awakened her.
Recent Examples on the Web And, in awakening Dorothy to her own inner resources, Granite awakens the young woman’s sense of her fellow-humans as sovereign selves. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 21 Nov. 2023 The general well-being and euphoria and brotherhood sweeping the earth were heralded by the recently awakened as the work of Christ. Dan Piepenbring, Harper's Magazine, 15 Nov. 2023 North Dakota homeowners were awakened by loud banging noises in the dead of night and found a naked and highly-intoxicated man trashing their daughter’s bedroom, according to police records. Emma Colton, Fox News, 12 Oct. 2023 Warming temperatures prompt vines to awaken earlier in the year, increasing frost danger — even the Mediterranean paradise of Provence has been frosted. Dave McIntyre, Washington Post, 9 Nov. 2023 In 1953, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, a blockbuster adaptation of a Ray Bradbury short story, told of an Arctic dinosaur awakened by nuclear testing, and its subsequent reign of havoc in New York. Asher Elbein, Scientific American, 3 Nov. 2023 The Conflict’s Global Reach A World of Fear: The Oct. 7 assault on Israel has awakened a repressed horror in Jewish populations in Europe, now compounded by dismay at the way the world’s sympathy has rapidly shifted to the Palestinians in Gaza. Katherine Rosman, New York Times, 2 Nov. 2023 Chargers offense awakens with scores on first five drives in rout of Bears. Helen Li, Los Angeles Times, 30 Oct. 2023 Then, awaken your gaze with a coat of L’Oréal’s Lash Paradise Mascara and accentuate your lips with a swipe of vibrant lipstick by Revlon. Brow Wiz A retractable pencil with an ultra-thin tip for a hair-mimicking effect — available in 12 shades including chocolate and auburn. Kiana Murden, Vogue, 11 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'awaken.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Old English awæcnian, from a- + wæcnian to waken

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of awaken was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near awaken

Cite this Entry

“Awaken.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


awak·​en ə-ˈwā-kən How to pronounce awaken (audio)
awakened; awakening -ˈwāk-(ə-)niŋ How to pronounce awaken (audio)
awakener noun

More from Merriam-Webster on awaken

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