Definition of listen in English:



  • 1 Give one's attention to a sound.

    ‘evidently he was not listening’
    ‘sit and listen to the radio’
    • ‘I love to just sit on the rocks for hours and watch and listen to the ocean.’
    • ‘They just want a safe place where they can hang out and listen to music.’
    • ‘He is not willing to stay in the House and listen to some responses to what he said.’
    • ‘Watch it a few times and you'll never listen to their audio output in the same way.’
    • ‘When free, he likes to listen to music, watch movies or spend time with his family.’
    • ‘When you could not watch them, you never missed a chance to listen to the action on the radio.’
    • ‘When we're at home she listens to jazz and watches modern films, and she's quite sociable.’
    • ‘Every few minutes he would stop and listen to what sounds there were in these quiet highland woods.’
    • ‘Using the player you can listen to radio stations and watch TV or video playback on your screen.’
    • ‘I listen to the sounds of the radiators ticking as the central heating comes on.’
    • ‘It was nice to pause, watch, and listen to the bird banging away and the wood chips falling to the ground.’
    • ‘The note was high and decidedly painful to listen to but it seemed to do the trick.’
    • ‘To watch and listen to these young boys and girls who were so obviously enjoying what they were doing was great.’
    • ‘You can listen to the audio of his speech here, and follow his charts and research here.’
    • ‘Many young people do not watch or listen to any political coverage at all.’
    • ‘They want to tell us all what we can and cannot watch, read, listen to or think about.’
    • ‘Patients will even be able to order a film to watch, or an audio book to listen to, both from their beds.’
    • ‘Such a move will help voters to gauge which ones to believe and which ones to simply listen to.’
    • ‘It's not highbrow in an elitist way but you have to pay attention and think while listening to it.’
    • ‘In the UK, more people now listen to radio than watch TV, for the first time in many years.’
    hear, pay attention, be attentive, attend, concentrate on, concentrate on hearing, give ear to, lend an ear to
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    1. 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’
      • ‘It's up to her whether or not she listens to our advice.’
      • ‘So, let us take time out of our busy schedules to listen to the simple request of these children.’
      • ‘The only advice to those players is that they should make up their own minds and not listen to anybody else.’
      • ‘And I'm just as confused and scared as the rest of us about what to believe and who to listen to.’
      • ‘Despite being aware of the dangers, a small minority of drivers don't listen to the advice.’
      • ‘Diabetic and asthmatic, she had listened to bad advice that she need not declare the winnings.’
      • ‘We should listen to expert advice, but to slavishly follow it on every occasion defies logic.’
      • ‘If your legal advice is that you have not got a cause of action, then you ought to listen to that advice.’
      • ‘So you are in a sense inviting those responses and either you listen to them or you don't.’
      • ‘He is an experienced town clerk and we would obviously listen to the advice that he gives.’
      • ‘So he had no choice but to listen to the advice of his friend and enrolled a course for motormen.’
      • ‘We were right to listen to the much louder optimistic voices in our own minds.’
      • ‘In economics it listens to the advice of the International Monetary Fund.’
      • ‘The worse part about growing old is that you have to listen to advice from your kids.’
      • ‘If you needed advice, or just someone to listen to you for a bit, Timothy was the guy to go to.’
      • ‘Sometimes it's difficult to know who to believe, who to listen to and who to support.’
      • ‘McConnell is keen to show he has been listening and will respond with deeds rather than words.’
      • ‘The UK must realise that real consultation requires them to listen to me and take my advice.’
      • ‘He knows he is right and so feels no need to listen to advice that goes against his conviction.’
      • ‘Good players listen to everyone and then pick and choose what advice they will take.’
      pay attention, take heed, heed, give heed, take notice, take note, mind, observe, watch, follow, notice, mark, bear in mind, give a thought to, take into consideration, take into account, take to heart, hang on, accept, believe
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    2. 1.2Make an effort to hear something; be alert and ready to hear something.
      ‘they listened for sounds from the baby's room’
      • ‘I kept listening for the sounds of the critter, but never heard it again the rest of the evening.’
      • ‘She constantly listens for her father's voice whispering to her over the water.’
      • ‘I think I walked around with my head tilted all day, as if I was listening for a sound no one could hear but me.’
      • ‘She listened for Sara or any other maid and heard them outside the mansion.’
      • ‘It was beginning to register to her that she was hearing a sound she had been listening for ever since the incident.’
      • ‘That means that politicians must not simply listen for the answers they want to hear.’
      • ‘The herons and buzzards have left for places more congenial to watching and listening for desperate scrambling through snow.’
      • ‘I tried to listen for them, but it was too difficult to hear over the people laughing and having fun.’
      • ‘I'll be watching and listening for this guy throughout the evening, and I do.’
      • ‘It's also great fun listening out for all the dinkum Aussie accents amongst the talented cast.’
      • ‘Jake crept down the hallway, listening for sounds from the servants and hearing only silence.’
      • ‘He would pause at the worst times, listening for something no one else could hear.’
      • ‘She tried to listen for footsteps, but the only sounds she heard came from the dance.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘Straining to hear, I moved onto the landing and listened for introductory or welcoming words in the downstairs hallway.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘When I hold the shell to my ear and listen for the ocean, all I can hear is the gentle flowering of breath.’
      • ‘I read a book, all the while listening for sounds of creepy people outside of my house.’
      • ‘In a favourite moment recently, I was sitting in Bologne airport alone, at the gate, listening for my flight call.’
    3. 1.3[in imperative]Used to urge someone to pay attention to what one is going to say.
      ‘listen, I've got an idea’
      • ‘"Listen mate, " the cop said in a low voice to Jake.’
      • ‘I'm only going to say this one time, so you may want to listen up.’
      • ‘Well, before you head out to pick up your holiday gifts, listen up.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But since I know you're not going to, then listen up.’
      • ‘Listen pal; don't start getting technical on me!’
      • ‘Listen honey, I'm sorry, I've been busy.’
      • ‘Tech fiends, listen up, you've been asking for it.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Emily, the class is over here - ok, now that I have your attention, listen up; you'll work in pairs today.’
      • ‘But listen up, hotel industry, and I'll give you the answer for free.’
      • ‘Listen pal, I've got chronic systolic palpitations and acute neuralgia!’
      • ‘Listen kid, it's just like I told you back there.’
      • ‘To all those parents and teachers that think it's cute and educational to have pets in children's classrooms, listen up!’
      • ‘OK, everybody, listen up: The time has come for the nation to stage an intervention.’
      • ‘If stuffing is on your menu tomorrow, well, you better listen up.’
      • ‘Listen buddy, I know you're lonely, I know you're sad.’
      • ‘You seem like a reasonable person, so listen up.’
      • ‘Well, listen up, because some Hollywood heavyweights have dropped the pounds, and people like you and me are now half their size.’
      • ‘Listen honey, can you quickly run to the shops to buy some mozzarella cheese?’
      hear, pay attention, be attentive, attend, concentrate on, concentrate on hearing, give ear to, lend an ear to
      View synonyms


  • [in singular] An act of listening to something.

    • ‘The CD caused much amusement in the office and everyone had a listen on the headphones.’
    • ‘I loved this album immediately on the first listen and it has been a constant favourite ever since.’
    • ‘If you wanna have a listen, here's the ultimate numbers station frequency list.’
    • ‘By the third listen, however, you became aware that this was a magical record.’
    • ‘Just one listen to this album will blow away all your blues.’
    • ‘It's a fascinating listen and yet constantly feels like a sampler for something bigger.’
    • ‘On this performance her forthcoming debut album could well be worth a listen.’
    • ‘Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly some hidden gems which make this set worth the listen.’
    • ‘Still, its form is at least partially discernible and this compilation is very much worth a listen.’
    • ‘On the first few listens, the songs wash by, disembodied like an ocean.’
    • ‘The next time you pass a busker, stop and have a proper listen, as you might be missing out on the next big thing in music.’
    • ‘I wish they'd just put up a transcript, but for those of you with broadband it's well worth a listen.’
    • ‘There's a bruised quality that keeps you at bay during the first few listens.’
    • ‘But before we go to break, take a listen to this sound that's being played in the courtroom.’
    • ‘You should definitely be able to give them a listen by the end of the week.’
    • ‘Some curious record buyer may come across it and be tempted to take it home for a listen.’
    • ‘It might not work as well as some tracks on the CD, but it is still worth a listen.’
    • ‘A cursory listen reveals that the first version closely resembles Nashville's, from a musical standpoint.’
    • ‘Otherwise, this is a sufficient listen for fans of the film.’
    • ‘The piano was played in the school's reception area for seven hours to allow everyone to have a listen.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • listen in

    • 1Listen to a private conversation, often secretly.

      • ‘Others noted that he listened in on private City Hall conversations thanks to microphones hidden in the ceiling.’
      • ‘So if Eugene is on the phone talking with Sasha, it's a crime for Stuart to install a monitoring device that listens in.’
      • ‘Tim would probably enter my room any second now to scold me for listening in to his private calls.’
      • ‘At this point, I decided to stop listening in on their private conversation.’
      • ‘I can't get into his most private thoughts and listen in as I can with so many other people.’
      • ‘It's handy - it lets you have a private conversation without the rest of the world listening in.’
      • ‘She was listening in secret so the two wouldn't be afraid to talk.’
      • ‘Julia picks up the phone and prepares to dial but she hears two male voices and it hits her that she is listening in to a private phone call.’
      • ‘I hurried him into my room and shut the door behind us; I didn't want any eavesdroppers listening in on our conversation.’
      • ‘State-of-the-art eavesdropping equipment is used to listen in to his conversations.’
      eavesdrop, spy
      overhear, tap, wiretap, bug, monitor
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1Use a radio receiving set to listen to a broadcast or conversation.
        • ‘Villages and settlements, especially in urban areas, take sides, and gather around community television sets, or listen in on radio.’
        • ‘Previously, they were only permitted to listen in on satellite and radio relay links.’


Old English hlysnan pay attention to of Germanic origin.