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From Middle English levain, borrowed from Old French, from Late Latin levāmen, instead of levāmentum, ultimately from Latin levō (I raise).


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈlɛv.ən/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛvən


leaven (countable and uncountable, plural leavens)

  1. Any agent used to make dough rise or to have a similar effect on baked goods.
  2. (figuratively) Anything that makes a general assimilating change in the mass.
    • Bible, Luke xii. 1
      Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

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leaven (third-person singular simple present leavens, present participle leavening, simple past and past participle leavened)

  1. (transitive) To add a leavening agent.
  2. (transitive) To cause to rise by fermentation.
  3. (transitive, figuratively) To temper an action or decision.
    • 1992, Rudolf M. Schuster, The Hepaticae and Anthocerotae of North America: East of the Hundredth Meridian, volume V, page vii
      With fresh material, taxonomic conclusions are leavened by recognition that the material examined reflects the site it occupied; a herbarium packet gives one only a small fraction of the data desirable for sound conclusions. Herbarium material does not, indeed, allow one to extrapolate safely: what you see is what you get []
  4. (transitive, figuratively) To imbue; to infect; to vitiate.
    • 1649, John Milton, Eikonoklastes, London: 1756, p. 30,[1]
      With these and the like deceivable doctrines, he levens also his prayer.
    • 1716, Thomas Browne, Christian Morals, 2nd edition edited by Samuel Johnson, London: J. Payne, 1756, Part I, p. 7,[2]
      [] pursue virtue virtuously: leven not good actions, nor render virtues disputable. Stain not fair acts with foul intentions []
  5. To rise or become larger. (Can we add an example for this sense?)

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