1 of 2


: an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime
stood in awe of the king
regard nature's wonders with awe
: the power to inspire dread


2 of 2


awed; awing

transitive verb

: to inspire or fill with awe
We were awed by the beauty of the mountains.

Example Sentences

Noun Clem gasped in awe. Inches from the shelf stood a column of scrimshaw the likes of which he'd never seen. Al Michaud, Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2005 I expected to be impressed by Machu Picchu, but now that we're here, standing in the clouds atop the world, I'm more than impressed—I'm in awe. Machu Picchu is actually better than photographs suggest, more a timeless way station than archaeological ruin. Patrick J. Kelly, Traveler, May/June 2005 Organs began to appear in American churches early in the eighteenth century. Their glorious tones promised to harmonize cacophonous congregational singers and to inspire worshippers with a reverential sense of awe, bestirring them to moral improvement. Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism, 2004 It was a sight that filled me with awe and reverence. a person who inspires feelings of awe in others Verb We stood at an impasse. If she thought she was getting my bags, she was nuts. I was still awed that they had actually made it through baggage claim in one piece; there was no way I was parting with them now. Helene Cooper, The House At Sugar Beach, 2008 Most relative neophytes are so awed by having been accepted into the priesthood of specialty medicine and so reluctant to cause themselves trouble in the institutions in which they will work for the coming decades that they would be hesitant to risk offending their seniors. Sherwin B. Nuland, New York Review of Books, 18 July 2002 But even non-birders cannot help but be awed by the significance of the habitat. All around us creatures dart and dive; birds attracted by fish and water, birds drawn by seeds and chaff. Birds with silly names: loons, boobies, cuckoos, goatsuckers. Clara Jeffery, Harper's, November 2002 Her style both awes and perplexes me. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
In that case, the origin of awe-inspiring creatures on islands drives us to consider the incipient sixth mass extinction. Joshua Sokol, The Atlantic, 21 Nov. 2022 For many Black residents across Los Angeles, Bass’ ceiling-shattering victory over billionaire businessman Rick Caruso was both awe-inspiring and cathartic. Los Angeles Times, 21 Nov. 2022 His reputation as one of classical music’s most fearsome technical pianists is decades-old, though no less awe-inspiring is the breadth of his repertoire, which ranges from C.P.E Bach to Morton Feldman. Luke Schulze, San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 Nov. 2022 But then, Homewood senior quarterback Woods Ray transformed from being impressive to being downright awe-inspiring. Randy Kennedy, al, 19 Nov. 2022 Across the universe An awe-inspiring new image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows the gas and dust released by a chaotic newborn star. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 19 Nov. 2022 Its flickering shadows, creeping mosses and shrouds of ethereal mist have enraptured pilgrims and seekers since antiquity, and the region’s awe-inspiring tranquillity has come to embody the long commingling of Shinto and Buddhist traditions. Michael Snyder, New York Times, 17 Nov. 2022 Good for kids or kids at heart, though just about anyone will be enthralled by the 204 pages of awe-inspiring LEGO creations and step-by-step instructions on how to create them. Ysolt Usigan, Woman's Day, 14 Nov. 2022 Imagine spending every day following one of the most iconic, awe-inspiring trails on Earth and having your gear, a hot meal, and a cold beverage, waiting for you at the end of each day. Outside Online, 14 Nov. 2022
Initially, going to work felt exciting and awe inspiring. Jessica Bartlett,, 9 Sep. 2022 There was horror at the scale of destruction, and awe at the bravery and kindness that rose to meet it. Jon Meacham, Town & Country, 30 Oct. 2022 Perhaps the final properties of thirst, once quenched, are gratitude for the resolution – and awe at overcoming the challenge. Erin Douglass, The Christian Science Monitor, 13 Oct. 2022 And Chairman Powell and his cohorts have promised more shock and awe ahead, should inflation gauges exceed targets. Roger Conrad, Forbes, 3 Oct. 2022 Among its many benefits, Keltner has found, awe diminishes the sense of self. Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic, 22 Sep. 2022 Not Beyoncé — her albums shimmer as rare visitations from the heavens, meant to awe and inspire., 11 Aug. 2022 On vacation with her family in Jamaica, Ralph gasped into her phone as her son filmed her shock and awe unfolding in real time. Caroline Framke, Variety, 5 Aug. 2022 The odds are that there will still be attempts to shock and awe by exaggerations concerning AI in the most unashamedly outrageous terms. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 12 June 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'awe.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



Middle English aw, awe, ahe "terror, dread, extreme reverence, veneration, something to be feared, danger," borrowed from Old Norse agi, accusative aga "terror, uproar," n-stem derivative from a Germanic base *ag- seen in the s-stem noun *agaz (whence Old English ege "fear, terror" [with assimilation to i-stems], Gothic agis) and a verbal derivative *agisōjan- (whence Old High German egisōn "to fear," Middle Dutch eisen) and a corresponding noun derivative *agisan- (whence Old English egesa, egsa "fear, terror," Old Saxon egiso, Old High German agiso, egiso); Germanic *agaz perhaps going back to Indo-European *h2egh-os, whence also Greek áchos "pain, distress"

Note: Germanic also has a verb *agan-, exemplified by the Gothic Class VI preterite-present ogan "to fear" (from a presumed reduplicated perfect) and the adjective unagands "fearless"; the verb has been compared with Old Irish adˑágadar "(s/he) frightens," and (despite the semantic gap) Greek áchnymai, achnýnai "to grieve, lament." See also etymology and note at ail entry 1.


Middle English awen "to terrify, overawe," derivative of awe "terror, awe entry 1"

First Known Use


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


1597, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of awe was in the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near awe

Cite this Entry

“Awe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

awe 1 of 2


: a feeling of mixed fear, respect, and wonder


2 of 2


awed; awing
: to fill with awe

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