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[shahr-puh n] /ˈʃɑr pən/
verb (used with or without object)
to make or become sharp or sharper.
Origin of sharpen
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English; see sharp, -en1
Related forms
sharpener, noun
presharpen, verb (used with object)
resharpen, verb
unsharpened, adjective
unsharpening, adjective
well-sharpened, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for sharpen
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A small iron axe, with a file to sharpen it, and a few awls, are (if nothing else can be taken) a very useful outfit.

    The Art of Travel Francis Galton
  • Why should they brighten their tomahawks and sharpen their knives against each other?

    The Last of the Mohicans James Fenimore Cooper
  • They dragged me to my feet, and Craven began to sharpen his dull wit on me.

    A Daughter of Raasay William MacLeod Raine
  • If you were envied, why should you sharpen envy, and file up its teeth to an edge?

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • Rienzi remembered that he had never confided but he had been betrayed; he had never forgiven but to sharpen enmity.

    Rienzi Edward Bulwer Lytton
British Dictionary definitions for sharpen


to make or become sharp or sharper
(music) to raise the pitch of (a note), esp by one chromatic semitone Usual US and Canadian word sharp
Derived Forms
sharpener, noun
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 sharpen

1520s, "bring to an edge or point," from sharp (adj.) + -en (1). Related: Sharpened; sharpening. Old English verb scearpian meant "to score, scarify;" cf. scearpung "scarifying." To sharpen (one's) pencil "prepare to get to work" is from 1957, American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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