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[Two distinct but synonymous verbs from the same root coalesced in early Middle English.:

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The strong verb

Old English. (? wæcnan), wóc, wócon, *wacen. (The present-stem is wanting, unless it be presented by wæcnan: see WAKEN v.) The strong pa. tense is found only in English; the strong pa. pple., not recorded in OE., but found in later periods, occurs in ON. vakenn, and as adj. (‘awake’) in MSw. vakin, Sw., Norw. vaken, Da. vaagen; N.Fris. vaaken is prob. from Scandinavian.

The weak verb

Old English. wacian, corresponding to OFris. wakia, waka (mod. WFris. weitsje, NFris. waake), OHG. wahhên, wachên, -ân (MHG., mod.G. wachen), ON. vaka, pa. tense vak a (Norw., MSw., Sw. vaka, Da. vaage), Goth. wakan: OTeut. *wak{a}jan (whence also the OE. doublet wæccan WATCH v.), or to OS., OLow Frankish wakon (MDu., Du., MLG., LG. waken), OHG. wachôn: OTeut. *wak{o}jan.

The Teut. root *wak- *w{o}k- in Goth. w{o}kains wakefulness, and, with different sense, in Goth. w{o}kr-s, OE. w{o}cor, ON. okr growth, increase, usury: see OCKER n.1) represents a pre-Teut. *wag-: *weg-; cf. L. veg{e)re to rouse, excite, also intr. to be lively or active, vig{e}re to be vigorous, vigil wakeful, Skr. v{a}jas neut. vigour; perh. to be referred to the Indo-Eur. root *aweg-, represented by L. aug{e}re, Goth. aukan to increase, OE. éacan to grow (see EKE v.), and with -s extension by Gr. to increase, OTeut. *wa{i}s- to grow (see WAX v.).


To remain awake.

  • 1. a. intr. To be or remain awake; to keep oneself, or be kept, awake. Also, to be still up and about (at night). Now rare exc. in waking (pr. pple. and ppl. a.).
b. with advb. obj. the night, a night (poet.). Also, to wake it.
c. quasi-trans. with complement. In the first quot. the omission of some such word as Theobald's ‘blind’ seems certain.
d. With unfavourable implication: To sit up late for pleasure or revelry; to turn night into day. Obs.
  • 2. a. To stay awake for the purpose of watching or tending; to keep watch while others sleep, be on guard at night. Const. on, upon, over, for, against; also to (do something). Also with cognate obj., to wake watch. Now only dial., to sit up at night with a person, esp. one who is sick. In 16th c. Sc. use wake and ward (see WARD v.) = ‘to keep watch and ward,’ as a duty incumbent on the freeman of a burgh.
b. said of the eyes, the brain. Obs.
  • 3. To stay awake or pass the night in prayer; to stay up during the night as an exercise of devotion; to keep vigil (in church, by a corpse, etc.). Const. in, on. Obs. exc. dial.
  • 4. a. To stay awake for any work or active occupation; to pass the night in work, study, etc. Const. in, for, on or upon, to. Obs.
b. fig. To be active, alert, stirring, vigilant. Const. as above; also, to be diligent, exert oneself to (do something). to wake over, to occupy one's mind with. Obs.
c. With clause: To take care that (something be done). Obs.
d. quasi-trans. To give diligent heed to, be active in (a matter). Obs. (Cf. SLEEP v. 7.)
  • 5. Phr. to hold or keep waking; earlier, to hold waken: To prevent from sleeping; to keep watchful or on the alert. Formerly: To keep (a person, esp. an enemy) occupied, ‘give (him) plenty to do’, allow (him) no rest; to trouble, harass; also refl. to be on the alert.
  • 6. a. trans. To watch or guard (one who sleeps); to watch or guard (a person or thing) at night or while others sleep; to keep watch upon or over. Obs. exc. dial.
b. To keep watch or vigil over (a dead body) until burial; to hold a wake over (see WAKE n.1 3). Now only dial., chiefly Anglo-Irish.
c. ? To pass the night by (a well) as a superstitious observance. Obs.
d. To be confined in (prison). Obs.

To become awake

  • 7. a. intr. To come out of the state of sleep or unconsciousness; to be roused from sleep, cease to sleep. Const. of (obs.), from, out of (sleep, etc.); to (a condition or state), to (do something). Cf. AWAKE v. 1.
b. with up.
c. transf. and fig., esp. of inanimate things. Of persons (usually with up): To become animated, alert, or lively, to throw off lethargy. It may be noted here that the only recorded sense of OE. wæcnan is ‘to come into being, be born’.
d. to wake to: to become conscious or aware of; to become ‘alive’ to. Cf. AWAKE v. 3.
e. fig. Of things, conditions, etc.: To be stirred up or aroused; to be put in motion or action. Also with up.

Causative uses

  • 8. a. trans. To rouse from sleep or unconsciousness. Also with up. Cf. AWAKE v. 5.
b. transf. and fig. in obvious uses. Also, to disturb (silence), make (a place) re-echo with noise.
c. to wake snakes (U.S. slang): ‘To cause trouble or disturbance’ (Thornton): see also SNAKE n. 2d.
  • 9. a. To rouse to action, activity, alertness, or liveliness. Const. to, into. Also with up.
b. to wake (up) to: to arouse to the consciousness or enjoyment of. Cf. 7d.
  • 10. To bring into being, raise, stir up (war, strife, woe, etc.); to arouse, excite (an activity, feeling, emotion); to evoke (a sound, echo, etc.). Also with up.

See Also