Definition of dawn in English:

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Pronunciation: /dôn/
Pronunciation: /dän/


1The first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise: the rose-pink light of dawn
More example sentences
  • She pushed the horse faster, but didn't sit up until the first light of dawn rose over the horizon.
  • All observations of mating behavior commenced at the beginning of this dawn period.
  • She wakes up in those dawns and rises with the sun.
daybreak, sunrise, first light, daylight;
first thing in the morning, sun-up
1.1The beginning of a phenomenon or period of time, especially one considered favorable: the dawn of civilization
More example sentences
  • Driving through a land which has been intensively farmed since the dawn of civilisation, we soon reached the Ghab, a rich agricultural valley which had once been marshland.
  • Humans require new dawns, fresh starts, ends of eras.
  • If we are correct, the Late Devonian wood problem was an almost inevitable result of evolutionary developments at the dawn of life.
beginning, start, birth, inception, origination, genesis, emergence, advent, appearance, arrival, dawning, rise, origin, onset;
unfolding, development, infancy
informal kickoff


[no object]
1(Of a day) begin: [with complement]: Thursday dawned bright and sunny
More example sentences
  • On a day such as this, one might have hoped that the day would dawn bright and early, bringing sunshine and crisp, cold, blue skies.
  • I kept the doors and windows closed even after day had dawned.
  • The next day dawned late, and we set out across an inland sea - the giant frozen lake Kuttijarvi - so large we couldn't see other side.
begin, break, arrive, emerge
1.1Come into existence: a new era of land-use policy was dawning
More example sentences
  • To be sure the threat to the Pattern has existed for the past couple of years, but I never thought the day would dawn when the outgoing committee was left with no alternative but to call it a day.
  • A new age was dawning, and I was riding the crest of it.
  • A new age has dawned, and the Holy Spirit has been poured out in a new way.
begin, start, commence, be born, appear, arrive, emerge;
arise, rise, break, unfold, develop
2Become evident to the mind; be perceived or understood: the awful truth was beginning to dawn on him (as adjective dawning) he smiled with dawning recognition
More example sentences
  • Realization seemed to dawn on Kaya's face after that sentence.
  • It didn't dawn on us what the reader was really asking.
  • Much of this has yet to dawn on Labour's backbenches and few would understand it even if spelled out for them.
occur to, come to, strike, hit, enter someone's mind, register with, enter someone's consciousness, cross someone's mind, suggest itself


from dawn to dusk

All day; ceaselessly: day after day from dawn to dusk, they drove those loaded canoes
More example sentences
  • The chickens at our sanctuary are outside from dawn to dusk, spending much of their time foraging for greens and insects.
  • Kids no longer have to till fields from dawn to dusk or toil in sooty factories.
  • Beautiful gardens open from dawn to dusk and a collection of romantic paintings inside provide the perfect combination for a day's relaxation.


Late 15th century (as a verb): back-formation from Middle English dawning.

  • day from Old English:

    The ancient word day has a Germanic root which may have meant ‘to burn’, through association with the heat of summer. The working day came with increasing industrialization, in the early 19th century. This is the day you refer to if you call it a day, ‘decide to stop doing something’. In the mid 19th century, when working people had fewer holidays, the expression was to call it half a day. If something unusual is all in a day's work, it is taken in your stride, as part of your normal routine. Jonathan Swift's Polite Conversations, which mocked the clichés of 18th-century society, suggest that the phrase was in circulation even then. Daylight dawned in the early Middle Ages (LME dawn itself is closely related to ‘day’). It was always associated with seeing, and in the mid 18th century daylights appeared as a term for the eyes. This is not the meaning in to beat the living daylights out of someone, where ‘daylights’ are the vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, and liver ( see light). The word ‘living’ is a later addition to the phrase, from the late 19th century. Days of wine and roses are times of pleasure, which will inevitably pass. The phrase comes from a line in a poem by the 19th-century poet Ernest Dowson: ‘They are not long, the days of wine and roses’.

Words that rhyme with dawn

adorn, born, borne, bourn, Braun, brawn, corn, drawn, faun, fawn, forborne, forewarn, forlorn, freeborn, lawn, lorn, morn, mourn, newborn, Norn, outworn, pawn, prawn, Quorn, sawn, scorn, Sean, shorn, spawn, suborn, sworn, thorn, thrawn, torn, Vaughan, warn, withdrawn, worn, yawn

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: dawn

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