• synonyms


See more synonyms for awn on Thesaurus.com
noun Botany.
  1. a bristlelike appendage of a plant, especially on the glumes of grasses.
  2. such appendages collectively, as those forming the beard of wheat, barley, etc.
  3. any similar bristle.
Show More

Origin of awn

1250–1300; Middle English aw(u)n, agune, agene, probably < Scandinavian; compare Old Norse ǫgn, Old Danish aghn husk; replacing and cognate with Old English ægnan; cognate with Gothic ahana, Old High German agana (German Agen, Ahne), Dutch, Frisian agen; OL agna ear of grain, Czech osina awn; Greek ákaina thorn, bristle, ákhnē chaff (< a pre-Hellenic substratum language); < Indo-European *Haeḱ- sharp
Related formsawned, adjectiveawn·less, adjectiveun·awned, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for awn

dagger, spire, promontory, headland, barb, apex, tip, snag, tine, sword, spike, jag, prong, cusp, head, prick, beak, cape, spur, spine

Examples from the Web for awn

Historical Examples of awn

  • The fourth glume is the flattened base of the awn, epaleate.

    A Handbook of Some South Indian Grasses

    Rai Bahadur K. Ranga Achariyar

  • In the locality this was called “picklin in his awn poke neuk.”

  • The little I have is free, and I can call it my awn—hame's hame, let it be never so hamely.

  • Bear, my dearest friend, bear is all they have, and wonderment it is to me that they ever see an awn of it.

    The Pirate

    Sir Walter Scott

  • The awn or beard is merely an elongation of the palea inferior.

British Dictionary definitions for awn


  1. any of the bristles growing from the spikelets of certain grasses, including cereals
Show More
Derived Formsawned, adjectiveawnless, adjective

Word Origin for awn

Old English agen ear of grain; related to Old Norse ögn chaff, Gothic ahana, Old High German agana, Greek akōn javelin
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 awn


"bristly fibers on grain of plants," c.1300, from Old Norse ögn, from Proto-Germanic *agano (cf. Old English egenu, Old High German agana, German Ahne, Gothic ahana), from PIE *ak-ona- (cf. Sanskrit asani- "arrowhead," Greek akhne "husk of wheat," Latin acus "chaff," Lithuanian akuotas "beard, awn"); suffixed form of PIE root *ak- "sharp" (see acrid).

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

awn in Science


  1. A slender, bristlelike appendage found on the spikelets of many grasses.
Show More
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.