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See also: Warn



Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English warnen, warnien (to warn; admonish), from Old English warnian (to take heed; warn), from Proto-Germanic *warnōną (to warn; take heed), from Proto-Indo-European *wer- (to be aware; give heed). Cognate with Dutch waarnen (obsolete), German Low German warnen, German warnen, Swedish varna, Icelandic varna.


warn (third-person singular simple present warns, present participle warning, simple past and past participle warned)

  1. (transitive) To make (someone) aware of impending danger etc. [from 11th c.]
    We waved a flag to warn the oncoming traffic.
  2. (transitive) To caution (someone) against unwise or unacceptable behaviour. [from 11th c.]
    He was warned against crossing the railway tracks at night.
    Don't let me catch you running in the corridor again, I warn you.
  3. (transitive) To notify (someone) of something untoward. [from 13th c.]
    I phoned to warn him of the rail strike.
  4. (intransitive) To give warning.
    • 1526, William Tyndale, tr. Bible, Galatians II, 9-10:
      then Iames Cephas and Iohn [...] agreed with vs that we shuld preache amonge the Hethen and they amonge the Iewes: warnynge only that we shulde remember the poore.
    • 1973, Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, Penguin 1995, p. 177:
      She is his deepest innocence in spaces of bough and hay before wishes were given a different name to warn that they might not come true [...].
    • 1988, Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, Picador 2000, p. 496:
      She warned that he was seriously thinking of withdrawing his offer to part the waters, ‘so that all you'll get at the Arabian Sea is a saltwater bath [...]’.
    • 1991, Clive James, ‘Making Programmes the World Wants’, The Dreaming Swimmer, Jonathan Cape 1992:
      Every country has its resident experts who warn that imported television will destroy the national consciousness and replace it with Dallas, The Waltons, Star Trek and Twin Peaks.
Usage notes[edit]
  • The intransitive sense is considered colloquial by some, and is explicitly proscribed by, for example, the Daily Telegraph style guide (which prefers give warning).
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English wernen, from a combination of Old English wyrnan, wiernan (from Proto-Germanic *warnijaną; compare Danish værne) and Old English wearnian (from Proto-Germanic *warnōną; compare Swedish varna).


warn (third-person singular simple present warns, present participle warning, simple past and past participle warned)

  1. (obsolete) To refuse, deny (someone something).
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter xj, in Le Morte Darthur, book XVI:
      And yf thou warne her loue she shalle goo dye anone yf thou haue no pyte on her / that sygnefyeth the grete byrd / the whiche shalle make the to warne her