Definition of leaven in English:



mass noun
  • 1A substance, typically yeast, that is added to dough to make it ferment and rise.

    • ‘Once a batch of bread has been mixed with the leaven, there are two ways in which the system can be perpetuated.’
    • ‘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.’
    leavening, ferment, fermentation agent, raising agent, yeast, barm, baking powder
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    1. 1.1 Dough 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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It works like a leaven of forgiveness and nonviolence in a culture prone to revenge and retribution.’
    • ‘A little leaven certainly has the power to affect the whole lump.’


  • 1usually as adjective leavenedCause (dough or bread) to ferment and rise by adding leaven.

    ‘leavened breads are forbidden during Passover’
    • ‘The Hebrew word ‘hametz’ is translated as leavened bread and refers to food prepared from five species of grain - wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye - that has been allowed to leaven.’
    • ‘These ingredients have been used individually in the preparation of other yeast leavened dough products.’
    • ‘Another method of leavening is the use of whipped egg whites, which traps air in bubbles.’
    • ‘He compares the rage of the people to a burning oven which the baker heats, until his dough is leavened and raised.’
    • ‘The Jews Jesus was speaking to would have viewed leavened bread as profane; it was unleavened bread that was sacred.’
    • ‘Why does the Orthodox church use leavened bread and most Protestant fellowships use unleavened bread?’
    • ‘Air bubbles can also be trapped in beaten egg whites, a technique used to leaven angel food or sponge cakes.’
    • ‘As it ages, natural leavened bread will retain its moisture and keep well without refrigeration, quite opposed from the yeasted bread that stales and dries out within hours after its baking.’
    • ‘An extrusion method is used to obtain leavened dough products with desirable characteristics.’
    • ‘With naturally leavened bread, the magic of bread baking - the leavening process - originates right here within the four walls of the bakery.’
    • ‘The children of Israel left Egypt in a hurry and did not have time to leaven their bread.’
    • ‘Several dozen of the Haredim managed to make their way to a street where chametz, or leavened bread, is sold.’
    • ‘An understanding of leavening ingredients and the interrelationship of other ingredients, preparation methods, heat and other factors, will help produce a final product of optimum quality.’
    • ‘By the way - if the batter is mixed for too long, the excess blending can cause the premature formation and escape of the carbon dioxide that is needed for leavening the pancakes.’
    • ‘There is only one time when leavened bread was offered, to represent the thanksgiving of the people.’
    raise, make rise, ferment, work, lighten, puff up, expand, swell, inflate
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  • 2Permeate and modify or transform (something) for the better.

    ‘the proceedings should be leavened by humour’
    ‘underneath the frills and fuss there's a leavening of serious intent’
    • ‘There is humour enough to leaven proceedings.’
    • ‘It is an accomplished film that uses dark humor to leaven its serious topics.’
    • ‘His narrative exposition crams in immense acreages of information, while nonetheless barrelling along at an exhilarating speed, and he leavens his social analysis with vignettes of individual Californians who have made a difference.’
    • ‘We are not encouraging any use of these sites save the one stated purpose of identifying leavening agents.’
    • ‘They're well-crafted, well-executed lyrics, often with a modicum of internal or (less often) end rhyme which leavens them in the mind.’
    • ‘For the next two weeks the schedules will be Olympics wall-to-wall, so I'm guessing that come next Friday we will all be gagging for a bit of inspired fiction to leaven the diet of real-life heartbreak and triumph.’
    • ‘There is lots of humor to leaven the suspense, as Christie fans will expect, particularly in scenes where Poirot gets to trump suspects who have treated him dismissively.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I wish all those kids were doing some kind of composition and improvisation as well, leavening their virtuosity with creativity.’
    • ‘In his writing he has honed a unique style of time-twisting montage, leavening the serious stuff with an eye for intriguing detail and an ear for a telling tale.’
    • ‘Fortunately, she has a sharp and tarry black humour, so while she attacks the objects of her wrath, she leavens the battle with a running current of dark and infectious wit.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The subject matter is still that of broken relationships but, whereas before the sense was of an unremitting resignation, now a lighter note leavens the confessionals.’
    • ‘Rustic humors punctuate and leaven the boxlike patterns of the plot, which gathers itself before each action as if for an aria.’
    • ‘And here, unlike in his previous shows, there is not enough humour or anger to leaven the piece, which takes its own philosophical possibilities just a little too seriously.’
    • ‘There is a bit of sarcasm too that leavens the portrayal at times but it never veers to irreverence.’
    • ‘This doesn't answer the question really, but then it could be argued that a little bit of humour does much to leaven the blandness of what passes for reporting and analysis in the Indian press.’
    • ‘It's obvious that he grew up loving old-fashioned shoot-em-ups and the humour that sometimes leavened the action.’
    • ‘I also was impressed by the amount of humor Washington uses to leaven the heavy material, giving every little character a realistic quirk and cutting judiciously on the funny lines to keep the timing solid.’
    • ‘He leavens his vision of the human slaughterhouse with emotions, but these nearly always lead to impasse, or compromise.’
    permeate, infuse, pervade, penetrate, imbue, suffuse, transform, modify
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Middle English: from Old French levain, based on Latin levamen ‘relief’ (literally ‘means of raising’), from levare ‘to lift’.