[shahr-puh n]

verb (used with or without object)

to make or become sharp or sharper.

Origin of sharpen

late Middle English word dating back to 1400–50; see origin at sharp, -en1
Related formssharp·en·er, nounpre·sharp·en, verb (used with object)re·sharp·en, verbun·sharp·ened, adjectiveun·sharp·en·ing, adjectivewell-sharp·ened, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for sharpen

hone, whet, taper, grind, stroke, edge, file, acuminate, dress, strop, sharp

Examples from the Web for sharpen

Contemporary Examples of sharpen

Historical Examples of sharpen

  • If you were envied, why should you sharpen envy, and file up its teeth to an edge?

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • Why should they brighten their tomahawks and sharpen their knives against each other?

    The Last of the Mohicans

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • I know for a fact that Sergeant Martin had no less than nine pen-knives to sharpen.

    The Field of Ice

    Jules Verne

  • You sharpen your wits on other people's, and you keep in touch with all kinds of opinions.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

  • Twas unkind in my uncle to sharpen his appetite with red rum.

British Dictionary definitions for sharpen



to make or become sharp or sharper
music to raise the pitch of (a note), esp by one chromatic semitoneUsual US and Canadian word: sharp
Derived Formssharpener, 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

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