[ask, ahsk]

verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)

to make inquiry; inquire: to ask about a person.
to request or petition (usually followed by for): to ask for leniency; to ask for food.


    ask for it, to risk or invite trouble, danger, punishment, etc., by persisting in some action or manner: He was asking for it by his abusive remarks.

Origin of ask

before 900; Middle English asken, axen, Old English āscian, āxian; cognate with Old Frisian āskia, Old Saxon ēscon, Old High German eiscōn (German heischen), Sanskrit icchati (he) seeks
Related formsask·er, nounun·ask·ing, adjectiveun·ask·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for ask

1. question, interrogate. 3, 11. sue, appeal. 4. beseech, beg, entreat. 10. See inquire.

Antonyms for ask

1, 10. answer.



noun Scandinavian Mythology.

the first man, made by the gods from an ash tree.
Compare Embla.

Origin of Ask

< Old Norse Askr; see ash2 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ask

Contemporary Examples of ask

Historical Examples of ask

  • Ask the poor fisherman at the gates, who has been to him as a brother; and he will answer 'Anaxagoras.'


    Lydia Maria Child

  • I have another favour to ask, in addition to the many claims you already have upon me.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • Look out you don't get mixed up in it yourself, that's all I ask.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Ask the young noble, who has been to him as a father; and his response will be 'Anaxagoras.'


    Lydia Maria Child

  • But I kept looking and after awhile I was able to sit up and ask what hit me.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

British Dictionary definitions for ask



(often foll by about) to put a question (to); request an answer (from)she asked ( him ) about God
(tr) to inquire aboutshe asked him the time of the train; she asked the way
(tr) to direct or put (a question)
(may take a clause as object or an infinitive often foll by for) to make a request or demandshe asked ( him ) for information; they asked for a deposit
(tr) to demand or expect (esp in the phrases ask a lot of, ask too much of)
Also: ask out, ask over (tr) to request (a person) politely to come or go to a place; invitehe asked her to the party
(tr) to need; requirethe job asks both time and patience
(tr) archaic to proclaim (marriage banns)


a big ask or a tough ask British, Australian and NZ informal a task which is difficult to fulfil
See also ask after, ask for
Derived Formsasker, noun

Word Origin for ask

Old English āscian; related to Old Frisian āskia, Old Saxon ēscon, Old High German eiscōn



Norse myth the first man, created by the gods from an ash tree
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

Word Origin and History for ask

Old English ascian "ask, call for an answer; make a request," from earlier ahsian, from Proto-Germanic *aiskojan (cf. Old Saxon escon, Old Frisian askia "request, demand, ask," Middle Dutch eiscen, Dutch eisen "to ask, demand," Old High German eiscon "to ask (a question)," German heischen "to ask, demand"), from PIE *ais- "to wish, desire" (cf. Sanskrit icchati "seeks, desires," Armenian aic "investigation," Old Church Slavonic iskati "to seek," Lithuanian ieškau "to seek").

Form in English influenced by a Scandinavian form of the word (cf. Danish æske; the Old English would have evolved by normal sound changes into ash, esh, which was a Midlands and s.w. England dialect form). Modern dialectal ax is as old as Old English acsian and was an accepted literary variant until c.1600. Related: Asked; asking. Old English also had fregnan/frignan which carried more directly the sense of "question, inquire," and is from PIE root *prek-, the common source of words for "ask" in most Indo-European languages (see pray). If you ask me "in my opinion" is attested from 1910. Asking price is attested from 1755.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with ask


In addition to the idioms beginning with ask

  • ask a stupid question and you'll get a stupid answer
  • ask for
  • ask for the moon
  • ask out

, see

  • don't ask
  • for the asking
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.