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From Middle English awakenen or awaknen, from Old English awæcnan or awæcnian, from a- plus wæcnan or wæcnian.


  • IPA(key): /əˈweɪkən/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪkən


awaken (third-person singular simple present awakens, present participle awakening, simple past and past participle awakened) (but see usage notes)

  1. (transitive) To cause to become awake.
    She awakened him by ringing the bell.
  2. (intransitive) To stop sleeping; awake.
    Each morning he awakens with a smile on his face.
  3. (transitive, figurative) To bring into action (something previously dormant); to stimulate.
    Awaken your entrepreneurial spirit!
    We hope to awaken your interest in our programme.
    • 1951 April, Stirling Everard, “A Matter of Pedigree”, in Railway Magazine, number 600, page 273:
      On the other hand, the self-cleaning smokebox belongs to the latter-day period of the L.M.S.R., when the visiting U.S.A. 2-8-0s of the war had awakened an interest in such things.
    • 1984, 20:05 from the start, in Dune[1] (Science Fiction), →OCLC:
      I'll miss the sea. But a person needs new experiences. They draw something deep inside, allowing him to grow. Without change, something sleeps inside us and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.
  4. (theology) To call to a sense of sin.
  5. (rare) past participle of awake
    • 1665, Robert Hooke, Micrographia:
      [This ant] I ſuffered to lye above an hour in the Spirit; and after I had taken it out, and put its body and legs into a natural poſture, remained moveleſs about an hour; but then , upon a ſudden, as if it had been awaken out of a drunken ſleep, it ſuddenly reviv'd and ran away...
  6. (transitive, figurative) To cause to become aware.
  7. (intransitive, figurative) To become aware.
    I suddenly awoke to the possibilities of the new invention.

Usage notes[edit]

This verb, for many speakers, has been essentially conflated with the verb awake, and has adopted parts of awake’s conjugation. awaken remains the bare form (and also in awakens and awakening), but its simple past and past participle are replaced by those of awake: awoke and awoken, respectively.

For many others, awaken has simply supplanted awake, without adopting conjugational elements from awake.