A man trying to listen through a door.
An example of listen is eavesdropping.
- to make a conscious effort to hear; attend closely, so as to hear
- to pay close attention; take advice
Origin of listenMiddle English listnen, felt as frequentative of listen (see list) from Old English hlysnan (akin to Middle High German lüsenen)
- to listen to the conversation of others; esp., to eavesdrop
- to listen to a broadcast
intransitive verblis·tened, lis·ten·ing, lis·tens
- To make an effort to hear something: listen to the radio; listen for the bell that ends class.
- To pay attention; heed: “She encouraged me to listen carefully to what country people called mother wit” ( Maya Angelou )
Origin of listenMiddle English listenen alteration ( influenced by listen to list, listen ; see list 4. ) of Old English hlysnan ; see kleu- in Indo-European roots.
(third-person singular simple present listens, present participle listening, simple past and past participle listened)
- (intransitive) To pay attention to a sound or speech.
- Please listen carefully as I explain.
- I like to listen to music.
- (intransitive) To expect or wait for a sound, such as a signal.
- You should listen for the starting gun.
- (intransitive) To accept advice or obey instruction; to agree or assent.
- Good children listen to their parents.
- Listen, the only reason I yelled at you was because I was upset, OK?
- (archaic) To hear (something or someone), to pay attention to.
In English, listen and hear are two primary verbs relating to audial perception. To hear represents automatic or passive perception of sound, while listen generally represents intentional or purposeful use of the sense of hearing. A similar distinction exists between see and watch in English.
From Middle English listnen, alteration (interpreted as frequentative of listen) from Old English hlysnan, from Proto-Germanic *hlūsinōną (compare Middle High German lüsenen), from *hlusēną (compare Old High German hlosēn), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱlew- (“to hear”) (compare Ancient Greek κλαίω (klaiō, “I make known, famous”), Latin clueō (“I am famous”), Lithuanian klausýti, Old Church Slavonic слѹшати (slušati, “to hear”), Sanskrit श्रोषति (śróṣati). Related to loud.