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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for listener
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Her voice was little more than a whisper, but it was loud in the listener's heart.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • The sympathy of it stirred the listener to fearful memories.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • The anguish of that question thrilled the heart of the listener.

    Night and Morning, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • Johnnie had the tongue of the improvisator, and he loved a listener.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • It spoke only of the song, yet the listener thought of the singer.

    The Gentleman From Indiana Booth Tarkington
British Dictionary definitions for listener


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 listener

1610s, "one who listens;" agent noun from listen. Meaning "one who hears a radio broadcast" is from 1912; hence listenership (1938).



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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