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[lis-uh n] /ˈlɪs ən/
verb (used without object)
to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
to pay attention; heed; obey (often followed by to):
Children don't always listen to their parents.
to wait attentively for a sound (usually followed by for):
to listen for sounds of their return.
Informal. to convey a particular impression to the hearer; sound:
The new recording doesn't listen as well as the old one.
verb (used with object)
Archaic. to give ear to; hear.
Verb phrases
listen in,
  1. to listen to a radio or television broadcast:
    Listen in tomorrow for the names of the lottery winners.
  2. to overhear a conversation or communication, especially by telephone; eavesdrop:
    Someone was listening in to his private calls.
Origin of listen
before 950; Middle English lis(t)nen, Old English hlysnan; cognate with Middle High German lüsenen, Swedish lyssna; akin to list5
Related forms
listener, noun
relisten, verb
unlistening, adjective
1. See hear. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for listen
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They became more angry and infuriated, and refused to listen any longer.

    The River of Darkness William Murray Graydon
  • listen to the voice that tries to win you back to innocence and truth!

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • My poor messmate was, however, far too excited to listen to reason.

    Marmaduke Merry William H. G. Kingston
  • He resolved to listen with good grace to any homilies that might issue.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • And One greater than Jonah is here, yet they will not listen to him!

British Dictionary definitions for listen


verb (intransitive)
to concentrate on hearing something
to take heed; pay attention: I told you many times but you wouldn't listen
Derived Forms
listener, noun
Word Origin
Old English hlysnan; related to Old High German lūstrēn
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for listen

Old English hlysnan "to listen," from Proto-Germanic *khlusinon (cf. Dutch luisteren, Old High German hlosen "to listen," German lauschen "to listen"), from PIE root *kleu- "hearing, to hear" (cf. Sanskrit srnoti "hears," srosati "hears, obeys;" Avestan sraothra "ear;" Middle Persian srod "hearing, sound;" Lithuanian klausau "to hear," slove "splendor, honor;" Old Church Slavonic slusati "to hear," slava "fame, glory," slovo "word;" Greek klyo "hear, be called," kleos "report, rumor, fame glory," kleio "make famous;" Latin cluere "to hear oneself called, be spoken of;" Old Irish ro-clui-nethar "hears," clunim "I hear," clu "fame, glory," cluada "ears;" Welsh clywaf "I hear;" Old English hlud "loud," hleoðor "tone, tune;" Old High German hlut "sound;" Gothic hiluþ "listening, attention"). The -t- probably is by influence of Old English hlystan (see list (v.2)). For vowel evolution, see bury. As a noun from 1788 (on the listen "alert").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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