Definition of listen in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlis(ə)n/


[no object]
1Give one’s attention to a sound: evidently he was not listening sit and listen to the radio
More example sentences
  • I listen to the sounds of the radiators ticking as the central heating comes on.
  • Every few minutes he would stop and listen to what sounds there were in these quiet highland woods.
  • It's not highbrow in an elitist way but you have to pay attention and think while listening to it.
1.1Take notice of and act on what someone says; respond to advice or a request: I told her over and over again, but she wouldn’t listen
More example sentences
  • We should listen to expert advice, but to slavishly follow it on every occasion defies logic.
  • Despite being aware of the dangers, a small minority of drivers don't listen to the advice.
  • So he had no choice but to listen to the advice of his friend and enrolled a course for motormen.
pay attention to, take heed of, heed, take notice of, take note of, mind, mark, bear in mind, take into consideration, take into account, tune in to
1.2Make an effort to hear something; be alert and ready to hear something: they listened for sounds from the baby’s room
More example sentences
  • He listens out for the car, hears the door close, sees Daddy walk past the window and then runs to the door to greet him.
  • Hook listens for the ring of truth and doesn't hear it.
  • Who is this third person who is neither one of the other two, who lies awake while they sleep, and listens for the chimes of country bells he doesn't hear?
1.3 (also listen up) [in imperative] Used to urge someone to pay attention to what one is going to say: listen, I’ve got an idea
More example sentences
  • Emily, the class is over here - ok, now that I have your attention, listen up; you'll work in pairs today.
  • As someone with an advanced degree in marine biology - I also have a pipe and a tweed jacket, so listen up - it might not be the greatest idea to punch sharks in the nose, regardless of how hot you are.
  • But the rest of you, listen up, because I've got compelling arguments with which to convince you, or your friends, if you're already a believer.


[in singular]
An act of listening to something.
Example sentences
  • Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly some hidden gems which make this set worth the listen.
  • I wish they'd just put up a transcript, but for those of you with broadband it's well worth a listen.
  • On this performance her forthcoming debut album could well be worth a listen.

Phrasal verbs

listen in

Listen to a private conversation, often secretly.
Example sentences
  • At this point, I decided to stop listening in on their private conversation.
  • Others noted that he listened in on private City Hall conversations thanks to microphones hidden in the ceiling.
  • Tim would probably enter my room any second now to scold me for listening in to his private calls.
eavesdrop, spy, overhear, tap, wiretap, bug, monitor
1.1Use a radio receiving set to listen to a broadcast or conversation.
Example sentences
  • Previously, they were only permitted to listen in on satellite and radio relay links.
  • Villages and settlements, especially in urban areas, take sides, and gather around community television sets, or listen in on radio.


Old English hlysnan 'pay attention to', of Germanic origin.

Words that rhyme with listen

christen, glisten

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: lis·ten

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