1. in or into a state of sleep: He fell asleep quickly.
  2. into a dormant or inactive state; to rest: Their anxieties were put asleep.
  3. into the state of death.
  1. sleeping: He is asleep.
  2. dormant; inactive.
  3. (of the foot, hand, leg, etc.) numb.
  4. dead.

Origin of asleep

before 1000; Middle English o slæpe, aslepe, Old English on slǣpe; see a-1, sleep
Related formshalf-a·sleep, adjectivequa·si-a·sleep, adjective, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for half-asleep

Contemporary Examples of half-asleep

Historical Examples of half-asleep

  • Nasmyth was half-asleep when the cook and the leader of the gang came in.

    The Greater Power

    Harold Bindloss

  • I was half-asleep when I heard a new noise under the sledge.

    Eben Holden

    Irving Bacheller

  • Fouquet had just retired to his room, still smiling, but more than half-asleep.

    The Man in the Iron Mask

    Alexandre Dumas, Pere

  • Allan was half-asleep, or what did instead, in one of his abstracted moods.

    The Rose Garden Husband

    Margaret Widdemer

  • His words, though only muttered, awaken Cypriano, still only half-asleep.

British Dictionary definitions for half-asleep


  1. neither fully asleep nor awake


adjective (postpositive)
  1. in or into a state of sleep
  2. in or into a dormant or inactive state
  3. (of limbs, esp when the blood supply to them has been restricted) numb; lacking sensation
  4. euphemistic dead
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 half-asleep



c.1200, aslepe, o slæpe, from Old English on slæpe (see sleep). The parallel form on sleep continued until c.1550. Of limbs, "numb through stoppage of circulation," from late 14c. Meaning "inattentive, off guard" is from mid-14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

half-asleep in Medicine


  1. In a state of sleep; sleeping.
  2. Numb, as of a limb.
  3. Dead.
  1. In or into a state of sleep.
  2. In or into a state of apathy or indifference.
  3. Into the sleep of the dead.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with half-asleep


In addition to the idiom beginning with asleep

  • asleep at the switch

also see:

  • fall asleep
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.