Definition of leaven in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlɛv(ə)n/


[mass noun]
1A substance, typically yeast, that is added to dough to make it ferment and rise.
Example sentences
  • Once active, even a small amount of leaven will be able to convert a very large quantity of new flour and water into fresh leaven overnight.
  • Once a batch of bread has been mixed with the leaven, there are two ways in which the system can be perpetuated.
leavening, ferment, fermentation agent, raising agent, yeast, barm, baking powder
1.1Dough that is reserved from an earlier batch in order to start a later one fermenting.
2A pervasive influence that modifies something or transforms it for the better: they acted as an intellectual leaven to the warriors who dominated the city
More example sentences
  • Being in the world, the Christian acts within the culture as a leaven, trying to transform it by communicating to others the redemption brought by Christ.
  • A little leaven certainly has the power to affect the whole lump.
  • After only five years of agitation, without abuse from us or any aggressive propagandism on our part, the leaven of this great truth has begun to work.


[with object]
1 (usually as adjective leavened) Cause (dough or bread) to ferment and rise by adding leaven: leavened breads are forbidden during Passover
More example sentences
  • These ingredients have been used individually in the preparation of other yeast leavened dough products.
  • There is only one time when leavened bread was offered, to represent the thanksgiving of the people.
  • An extrusion method is used to obtain leavened dough products with desirable characteristics.
raise, make rise, ferment, work, lighten, puff up, expand, swell, inflate
2Permeate and modify or transform (something) for the better: the proceedings should be leavened by humour (as noun leavening) underneath the frills and fuss there’s a leavening of serious intent
More example sentences
  • There is humour enough to leaven proceedings.
  • Frazier's sense of humor leavens his troubling reflections on the roles evil and envy play in the terribly sad history of the Sioux, in particular, and Native Americans in general.
  • In typical Tutu fashion - leavening painful moments with humour and lifting the spirit in joy - the archbishop had the congregation smiling while reflecting on the sacrifices Naude had made.
permeate, infuse, pervade, penetrate, imbue, suffuse, transform, modify;
enliven, lighten, quicken, inspire, stimulate, liven up, invigorate, vivify, ginger up, energize, electrify, galvanize, perk up, brighten up, cheer up, season, spice
informal buck up, pep up, add zest to, add zing to



Example sentences
  • By the late 19th century baking powder had replaced yeast entirely as a leavener for cakes.
  • Animal fat, or lard, which has a high smoking point, is very effective as a leavener in flaky pastries and tart shells.
  • Self-rising flour has leavener already in it (like baking powder or baking soda).


Middle English: from Old French levain, based on Latin levamen 'relief' (literally 'means of raising'), from levare 'to lift'.

  • elevate from Late Middle English:

    The word elevate is from Latin elevare ‘to raise’, based on levis ‘light’, found also in alleviate (Late Middle English) ‘lighten’, levity (mid 16th century), relieve (Middle English), and the leaven (Middle English) used in bread-making to lighten the loaf.

Words that rhyme with leaven

Bevan, Devon, eleven, Evan, heaven, Pleven, seven, Severn

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: leaven

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