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verb (used without object)
  1. to open the mouth somewhat involuntarily with a prolonged, deep inhalation and sighing or heavy exhalation, as from drowsiness or boredom.
  2. to open wide like a mouth.
  3. to extend or stretch wide, as an open and deep space.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to say with a yawn.
  2. Archaic. to open wide, or lay open, as if by yawning.
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  1. an act or instance of yawning.
  2. an opening; open space; chasm.
  3. Also yawner. Informal. something so boring as to make one yawn: Critics say the new fashions are one big yawn.
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Origin of yawn

before 900; Middle English yanen, yonen (v.), alteration of yenen, Old English ge(o)nian; akin to Old English gānian, ginan, Old Norse gīna, G gähnen, Latin hiāre (see hiatus), Greek chaínein to gape (see chasm)
Can be confusedyawn yon


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1–3. gape.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for yawn

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • They passed a frowzy chambermaid, who stared at them with a yawn.

  • We lightly debate, we hesitate, we yawn, unconscious of the brink.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • "The most agreeable house to me now is my own," I said, with a yawn, and I got up to go.

    A Hero of Our Time

    M. Y. Lermontov

  • And for many a cause for which men have suffered and died, posterity has but a yawn.

    Mountain Meditations

    L. Lind-af-Hageby

  • It was only half-past ten when she forced a yawn and asked him to get her a taxi.

British Dictionary definitions for yawn


  1. (intr) to open the mouth wide and take in air deeply, often as in involuntary reaction to tiredness, sleepiness, or boredom
  2. (tr) to express or utter while yawning
  3. (intr) to be open wide as if threatening to engulf (someone or something)the mine shaft yawned below
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  1. the act or an instance of yawning
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Derived Formsyawner, nounyawning, adjectiveyawningly, adverb

Word Origin

Old English gionian; related to Old Saxon ginōn, Old High German ginēn to yawn, Old Norse gjā gap
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 yawn


c.1300, yenen, yonen, from Old English ginian, gionian "open the mouth wide, gape," from Proto-Germanic *gin- (cf. Old Norse gina "to yawn," Dutch geeuwen, Old High German ginen, German gähnen "to yawn"), from PIE *ghai- "to yawn, gape" (cf. Old Church Slavonic zijajo "to gape," Lithuanian zioju, Czech zivati "to yawn," Greek khainein, Latin hiare "to yawn, gape," Sanskrit vijihite "to gape, be ajar"). Related: Yawned; yawning.

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"act of yawning," 1690s, from yawn (v.). Meaning "boring thing" is attested from 1889.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

yawn in Medicine


  1. To open the mouth wide with a deep inhalation, usually involuntarily from drowsiness, fatigue, or boredom.
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  1. The act of yawning.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.