Definition of sleep in English:

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Pronunciation: /slēp/


1A condition of body and mind such as that which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended: I was on the verge of sleep [in singular]: a good night’s sleep
More example sentences
  • Based on the results of this study, seven hours of sleep per night seems optimal for longer life.
  • Is there anything else that might allow me at least three hours of continuous sleep at night?
  • As they get older they may need only nine or ten hours of sleep at night, but it varies just as it does for adults.
nap, doze, siesta, power nap, catnap, beauty sleep
informal snooze, forty winks, bit of shut-eye, power nap
literary slumber
1.1chiefly literary A state compared to or resembling sleep, such as death or complete silence or stillness: a photograph of the poet in his last sleep
More example sentences
  • I was comforted by the thought of the blissful non-dreaming sleep of death but I could no longer believe in that.
  • He is not an overly religious man and maintains that there is no after life, that death is a long sleep.
  • The only peace that is going to last, for millions of men, is the peace they will get in the sleep of death.
2A gummy or gritty secretion found in the corners of the eyes after sleep: she sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes
More example sentences
  • Immediately, the chief appeared at the palisades, rubbing sleep from his eyes, but still awake enough to raise the alarm.
  • It was the same for several human villagers who exited shabby tents, rubbing sleep from their eyes.
  • She rolled to face the door, rubbing sleep from her eyes with one loose fist.

verb (past and past participle slept /slept/)

[no object]
1Rest by sleeping; be asleep: she slept for half an hour (as adjective sleeping) he looked at the sleeping child
More example sentences
  • I was very tired after the game, having slept badly all week due to the adrenalin of doing gigs or nerves at the upcoming poker.
  • I was worried that I might not have handled it very well and slept badly.
  • Not sleeping had become a constant agitation - and the more he worried about it, the worse he slept.
be asleep, doze, take a siesta, take a nap, catnap, sleep like a log
informal snooze, catch/snatch forty winks, get some shut-eye, put one's head down, catch some Zs
humorous be in the land of Nod, be in the arms of Morpheus
literary slumber
1.1Be inactive or dormant: Copenhagen likes to be known as the city that never sleeps
More example sentences
  • The prayer centre in Didsbury opened today welcoming Christians aged 16 to 30 who want to worship when the rest of the city sleeps.
  • This is a city that rarely sleeps, that never seems to rest in its quest for pleasure, in its endeavour at enterprise, in its inherent divinity.
  • Alas, the ads were kind of a cheat - by the time Jason finally reached the city that never sleeps, the movie was nearly 3/4 over.
1.2 literary Be at peace in death; lie buried: he sleeps beneath the silver birches
More example sentences
  • Bede the priest sleeps eternally.
  • One who "sleeps the eternal slumber" lives in the heart.
2 [with object] Provide (a specified number of people) with beds, rooms, or places to stay the night: studios sleeping two people cost $70 a night
More example sentences
  • The package said sleeps six, but I say more comfortably 4 or 5 people.
  • The hotel sleeps over 100 guests, and every bedroom is unique.
  • The Norman Rockwell Room sleeps 4 with one double\full bed and two single beds.
3 [with adverbial] Have sexual intercourse or be involved in a sexual relationship: I won’t sleep with a man who doesn’t respect me
More example sentences
  • Lots of girls pretend to be sexually open but still think that if they sleep with someone then there should be a relationship.
  • He didn't say anything about his sexuality, but of course, we who hoped to sleep with him all speculated.
  • Noel and Ruby complicate their relationship even further by sleeping together.



one could do something in one's sleep

informal One regards something as so easy that it will require no effort or conscious thought to accomplish: she knew the music perfectly, could sing it in her sleep
More example sentences
  • Do this until you feel so comfy with every note you could sing the tune in your sleep.
  • Listening to the arguments for pornography is like listening to the refrain of a song one can sing in one's sleep.
  • But when you've been at this (the record business) as long as me, you can think in your sleep.

get to sleep

Manage to fall asleep.
Example sentences
  • ‘I usually don't have troubles getting to sleep and fall asleep quite quickly but it's not unusual that I wake up in the middle of the night,’ said Mrs Snelgrove.
  • She didn't remember how long it took her to get to sleep or even falling asleep.
  • According to one study, 97 per cent of pregnant women have difficulties getting to sleep or staying asleep.

go to sleep

Fall asleep.
Example sentences
  • I'd changed into a baggy t-shirt and shorts of Trevor's and went to sleep just after he'd fallen asleep.
  • I told her to go to sleep then, and we both fell asleep until Mark came in asking her for money for his cab.
  • Sometimes a child will only go to sleep if a parent is there, fall asleep downstairs, or want to go to bed at the same time as his parents.
fall asleep, get to sleep
informal drop off, nod off, drift off, crash out, sack out
3.1(Of a limb) become numb as a result of prolonged pressure.
Example sentences
  • It's a very odd sensation, simply not being able to focus one's mind; the mental equivalent of waking up and realizing your arm has gone to sleep and you can't feel or move it.
  • It was five o'clock in the morning, and her first thought was that the lifeless arm had gone to sleep.
  • You know the feeling when your foot or leg "goes to sleep" if you cross your legs to long?

let sleeping dogs lie

proverb Avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems but might do so as a result of such interference.
Example sentences
  • And God also seems to have the highest expectations of us, not settling for second-best or letting sleeping dogs lie.
  • So the Labor party is merely going along with the masses by letting sleeping dogs lie.
  • Somebody sent me an email that said this was all the fault of the U.S. because ‘we should have let sleeping dogs lie.’

lose sleep

see lose.

put someone to sleep

Make someone unconscious by the use of drugs, alcohol, or an anesthetic.
Example sentences
  • She vividly remembers the doctor coming one day when she was four or five, putting her to sleep with anaesthetic and ‘straightening my feet.’
  • Before the Finnish anaesthetist put him to sleep, an Australian nurse asked an Ethiopian translator to find out if the farmer had any questions.
  • A general anaesthetic is most commonly used, which means that you will be put to sleep for the operation.
(also send someone to sleep) 6.1 Bore someone greatly.
Example sentences
  • The priest was incredibly boring and practically sent me to sleep with his sermon.
  • And since this is the kind of basic knowledge that every school kid should know, the text refrains from being so dry that it sends you to sleep.
  • The dreadful dullness of the Executive would be more apparent if the Party had not selected a leader who was supposed to soothe voters' fear of independence but has ended up sending them to sleep instead.

put something to sleep

Kill an animal, especially an old, sick, or badly injured one, painlessly (used euphemistically).
Example sentences
  • In it she claimed that she had ‘found a cure for things the vet put your animal to sleep for.’
  • Even when it involves visiting farms, making house calls or putting a terminally-ill animal to sleep, ‘it's what we are there for’.
  • There have been rumours that we put animals to sleep once we cannot house them.
Computing 7.1 Put a computer on standby while it is not being used, especially in order to reduce power consumption.
Example sentences
  • And with that, Tony left the room and put his computer to sleep.
  • Nathaniel put his computer to sleep, and then I followed him downstairs.
  • To save power, each of these units can be put to sleep when not in use.

sleep easy

see easy.

sleep like a log (or top)

Sleep very soundly.
Example sentences
  • He slept like a log for the best part of two hours.
  • I slept like a log, and made it in to the hospital just after 10 this morning.
  • When I'd finished the work, I crawled to my bed and slept like a log and then woke up ready for work again.

sleep on it

informal Delay making a decision on something until the following day so as to have more time to consider it.
Example sentences
  • He said he's sleeping on it and is going to make a decision tomorrow.
  • I had some misgivings, and he had some misgivings, so I suggested he sleep on it overnight before rushing into a decision.
  • Having slept on it, I think it's probably fair to conclude that the media reported Clark's statements accurately.

the sleep of the just

A deep, untroubled sleep.
Example sentences
  • One night when I was about 4 years old, and sleeping the sleep of the just, I heard a commotion downstairs.
  • I had sketched it all out on my ride home, and all I needed to do was travel the last few miles, go inside, type it all up, and sleep the sleep of the just.
  • There's a person in America still sleeping the sleep of the just to whom I bunged an e-mail hours ago in the confident but foolish expectation of a quick reply.

sleep rough

see rough.

sleep tight

[usually in imperative] Sleep well (said to someone when parting from them at night).
Example sentences
  • With Frank on the board, corporate managements can sleep tight in the knowledge that Frank won't have a clue what's going on.
  • It is incomprehensible to most westerners how anyone could sleep tight in a room six feet by four and a half by three and a bit.
  • ‘‘Night, guys,’ I said, before he could get another word in edgewise, and after hearing two normal responses and a ‘nighty-night, sleep tight!’

sleep with one eye open

Sleep very lightly, aware of what is happening around one.
Example sentences
  • I'm sleeping with one eye open because it's disturbing.
  • It was very scary; I had to sleep with one eye open.
  • So, if I were you, tonight I'd sleep with one eye open.

Phrasal verbs


sleep around

informal Have many casual sexual partners.
Example sentences
  • Threesomes are very common in gay relationships, often though they are used as a way to appease a partner who wants to sleep around.
  • But anyone can sleep around, what is risqué about that?
  • She knows he is sleeping around but she won't use condoms because ‘that would look as if I don't trust him.’

sleep in

Remain asleep or in bed later than usual in the morning.
Example sentences
  • I was too tired to get up and go to school for 8 in the morning so I just slept in.
  • Sunday mornings are for sleeping in, not for physical exertion with the pub footie team.
  • Meanwhile, my sleeping in this morning meant Katharine had to get her own breakfast.
2.1Sleep by night at one’s place of work.
Example sentences
  • It was a cool hotel and I didn't mind at all that I had to sleep in for one night.
  • A team of seven staff works at the home with at least two staff on duty at all times during the day and one sleeping in overnight.
  • At the new home, the staff who sleep in overnight did not like being disturbed during the night.

sleep something off/away

Dispel the effects of or recover from something by going to sleep: she thought it wise to let him sleep off his hangover
More example sentences
  • We slept hangovers off together and it felt so nice just to be close to someone, to him.
  • My father slept, or I should say slept it off, in the master bedroom.
  • Stay tuned for further reports just as soon as Aaron has slept it off.

sleep out

Sleep outdoors.
Example sentences
  • Far too many people, especially young people, are sleeping out on the streets every night, and many are aged 13 to 16.
  • This will be the first time for many of the Beavers to sleep out and we hope they have a great night.
  • Cornell was a collegiate hockey powerhouse, and I was a season ticket holder each of my four years there, which necessitated sleeping out a couple of nights just to get tickets.

sleep over

North American Spend the night at a place other than one’s own home: Katie was asked to sleep over with Jenny
More example sentences
  • Although we had spend several Friday or Saturday nights together sleeping over during that summer, this was very special.
  • Last night I slept over at my parents' house, in my old room, in my old bed.
  • One night when I slept over she told me she was going to cut off all my hair when I fell asleep.


Old English slēp, slǣp (noun), slēpan, slǣpan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch slapen and German schlafen.

  • A word first recorded around ad 800. The modern-sounding phrase sleep with, meaning ‘to have sex with’, is almost as old, and was used by the Anglo-Saxons. Sleep like a log, meaning ‘to sleep very soundly’, is not recorded before the 1880s, but the earlier version sleep like a top was used in the 17th century—the top here was a wooden toy that spun when whipped by a child, but was otherwise still and lifeless. The modern form of the proverb let sleeping dogs lie appears first in Sir Walter Scott's 1824 novel Redgauntlet. Long before that, in the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer advised in Troilus and Criseyde that ‘it is not good a sleeping hound to wake’.

Words that rhyme with sleep

asleep, beep, bleep, cheap, cheep, creep, deep, heap, Jeep, keep, leap, neap, neep, peep, reap, seep, sheep, skin-deep, steep, Streep, sweep, veep, weep

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: sleep

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