Middle English herkenen ( “ to listen (attentively); to pay attention, take heed ” ) [ and other forms ] , from  Old English , hercnian , heorcnian , from hyrcnian *heorcian ( “ to hark ” ) infixed with , -n- from  Proto-West Germanic , from *hauʀijan Proto-Germanic *hauzijaną ( “ to hear ” ), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ḱh₂owsyéti ( “ to be sharp-eared, hear well ” ), from *h₂eḱ- ( “ sharp ” ) + *h₂ṓws ( “ ear ” ) + *-yéti ( denominative suffix ). The spelling of the English word was probably influenced by , hear and can be analysed as  + hark .
hearken ( third-person singular simple present , hearkens present participle , hearkening simple past and past participle )
( transitive , archaic except poetic ) To hear (something) with attention; to have regard to (something).
1596, Edmund Spenser, “Book IV, Canto VII”, in , part II (books IV–VI), London: The Faerie Queene. [ … ] [ … ] [ Richard Field] for William Ponsonby, , stanza 33, OCLC 932900760 page 103: Thenceforth ſhe paſt into his dreadfull den, / VVhere nought but darkeſome drerineſſe ſhe found, / Ne creature ſaw, but hearkned now and then / Some little whiſpering, and ſoft groaning ſound.
1610–1611 (date written), William Shakespeare, “ The Tempest”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies ( [ … ] First Folio), London: [ … ] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, , [Act I, scene ii], OCLC 606515358 page 3, column 1: This King of Naples being an Enemy / To me inueterate, hearkens my Brothers ſuit, / Which was, That he in lieu o' th' premiſes, / Of homage, and I know not how much Tribute, / Should preſently extirpate me and mine / Out of the Dukedome, and confer faire Milane / With all the Honors, on my brother: [… ]
1785, “Hunting Songs and Cantatas”, in The Humming Bird: Or, A Compleat Collection of the Most Esteemed Songs., 3rd edition, Canterbury, Kent: Printed and sold by Simmons and Kirkby; London: [ … ] J[oseph] Johnson, [ … ] , , number 50, OCLC 1086526008 page 17, column 2: With pleaſure he hearkens the heart-ſoothing chear / Shakes Morpheus and ſlumber away; / While joyful he ſtarts, and with ſpeed doth appear / The foremoſt to welcome the day.
1832 December (indicated as 1833), Alfred Tennyson, “New Year’s Eve”, in Poems, London: Edward Moxon, [ … ] , , stanza X, OCLC 3944791 page 99: Tho' I cannot speak a word, I shall hearken what ye say, / And be often—often with ye when ye think I'm faraway.
1869 December 18, “A Storm”, in William and Robert Chambers, editors, , number 312 (Fourth Series), London; Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art , OCLC 793924257 page 816, column 2: And now a sweet bird calls its scattered mates, / And gaily hearkens the unburdened heart.
( intransitive ) To listen; to attend or give heed to what is uttered; to hear with attention, compliance, or obedience.
1560, [ William Whittingham et al., transl.], The Bible and Holy Scriptures Conteyned in the Olde and Newe Testament. (the [ … ] Geneva Bible), Geneva: [ … ] Rouland Hall, , OCLC 557472409 Ecclesiasticus XXIIII:25, folio 433, verso: Who ſo hearkeneth vnto me, ſhal not come to confuſion, & they that worke by me, ſhal not offende; [they that make me to be knowen, ſhal haue euerlaſting life.]
1593, [William Shakespeare], , London: Venus and Adonis [ … ] Richard Field, [ … ] , , verse 145; OCLC 837166078 Shakespeare’s Venus & Adonis:, 4th edition, London: [ … ] J[oseph] M[alaby] Dent and Co. [ … ] , 1896, , lines 868–870, OCLC 19803734 page 51: She hearkens for his hounds and for his horn: / Anon she hears them chant it lustily, / And all in haste she coasteth to the cry.
1611, ( The Holy Bible, [ … ] King James Version), London: [ … ] Robert Barker, [ … ] , , OCLC 964384981 Genesis 3:17, column 1: And vnto Adam he [God] ſaid, Becauſe thou hast hearkened vnto the voice of thy wife [ Eve], and haſt eaten of the tree, of which I commaunded thee, ſaying, Thou ſhalt not eate of it: curſed is the ground for thy ſake: in ſorow ſhalt thou eate of it all the dayes of thy life.
1611, ( The Holy Bible, [ … ] King James Version), London: [ … ] Robert Barker, [ … ] , , OCLC 964384981 Deuteronomy 4:1, column 1: Nowe therefore hearken, O Iſrael, vnto the Statutes, and vnto the Judgments which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may liue, and goe in and poſſeſſe the lande, which the Lord God of your fathers giueth you.
1697, Virgil, “The Fourth Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis., London: [ … ] [ … ] Jacob Tonson, [ … ] , , lines 690–693, OCLC 403869432 page 143: Ev'n from the depths of Hell the Damn'd advance, / Th' Infernal Manſions nodding ſeem to dance; / The gaping three-mouth'd Dog forgets to ſnarl, / The Furies harken, and their Snakes uncurl.
1750 November, “Maxims for the Conduct of Life”, in , volume VII, number XLVIII, London: Published The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure: [ … ] [ … ] by John Hinton, [ … ] , , OCLC 854907747 page 224, column 1: When ſhe [voluptuousness] ſpreadeth her delicacies on the table, when her wine ſparkleth in the cup, when ſhe ſmileth upon thee, and perſuadeth thee to be joyful and happy; then is the hour of danger, and let reaſon ſtand firmly on her guard: for, if thou hearkeneſt unto the words of her adverſary, thou art deceived and betrayed.
1827, [James Fenimore Cooper], chapter III, in , volume I, Philadelphia, Pa.: The Prairie; a Tale. [ … ] Carey, Lea & Carey [ … ] , , OCLC 982063220 page 48: If the advice of an old man is, then, worth hearkening to, children, you will quickly, go different ways to your places of shelter and safety.
1832 December (indicated as 1833), Alfred Tennyson, “ Œnone”, in Poems, London: Edward Moxon, [ … ] , , stanza II, OCLC 3944791 page 52: O mother Ida, manyfountained Ida, / Dear mother Ida, hearken ere I die.
1843 January, Edgar A[llan] Poe, “ The Tell-Tale Heart”, in J[ames] Russell Lowell and R[obert] Carter, editors, The Pioneer. A Literary and Critical Magazine, volume I, number I, Boston, Mass.: Leland and Whiting, [ … ] , , OCLC 701821510 page 29, column 1: How, then, am I mad? Harken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story.
1844, [Helen Taylor], “Monday”, in The Child’s Book of Homilies., London: Edwards and Hughes, [ … ] [ … ] ; Hatchard and Son, [ … ] , , part II (Homilies for the Week), OCLC 1078498559 page 70: Thou who art of all things Lord, / Well I know, in Galilee, / Hearkenedst to Thy mother's word, / Teach me such a child to be.
1881–1882, Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Sea Chest”, in , London; Paris: Treasure Island Cassell & Company, published 14 November 1883, , part I (The Old Buccaneer), OCLC 702939134 page 29: We were not many minutes on the road, though we sometimes stopped to lay hold of each other and hearken. But there was no unusual sound—nothing but the low wash of the ripple and the croaking of the inmates of the wood.
1942, William Faulkner, “The Bear”, in , New York, N.Y.: Go Down, Moses Random House, , section 5, OCLC 749227801 page 326: [T]he mother who had shaped him if any had toward the man he almost was, [… ] whom he had revered and harkened to and loved and lost and grieved: [… ] 1999, Stanley Fish, “Fraught with Death”, in The Trouble with Principle, Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press, , →ISBN page 93: You do not, in short, speak in order to encourage others to speak freely but in order to discourage others from disseminating or hearkening to error. You do not seek to enfranchise the community but to bind it to the truths you take to be salutary. ( intransitive , obsolete ) To enquire; to seek information.
1598–1599 (first performance), William Shakespeare, , quarto edition, London: Much Adoe about Nothing. [ … ] [ … ] V[alentine] S[immes] for Andrew Wise, and William Aspley, published 1600, , OCLC 932921146 [Act V, scene ii]: Claudio. Hearken after their offence my Lord. / Prince. Officers, what offence haue theſe men done?
Usage notes Edit
hearken is much more common in Britain, while harken (which is older and thought by some to be more regularly formed from ) is more common in the United States. hark 
Alternative forms Edit
Derived terms Edit
to listen; to attend or give heed to what is uttered
слушам (bg) ( slušam ), вслушвам се ( vslušvam se ) Finnish:
kuunnella , (fi) kuunnella tarkkaan German:
horchen , (de) hören , (de) lauschen (de) Gothic:
𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌷𐌰𐌿𐍃𐌾𐌰𐌽 ( andhausjan ) Greek:
Ancient: ὑπακούω ( hupakoúō ) Ido:
askoltar (io) Italian:
, dare ascolto , ascoltare con attenzione prestare orecchio Portuguese:
escutar atentamente Russian:
вы́слушать (ru) ( výslušatʹ ), вне́млить impf ( vnémlitʹ ), внима́ть (ru) impf ( vnimátʹ ) Serbo-Croatian:
počuti , (sh) saslušati (sh) Swedish:
lystra (sv) Turkish: dinlemek , (tr) kulak vermek (tr)
herkenen, ”, in v. , Ann Arbor, Mich.: MED Online University of Michigan, 2007.
↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 “
hearken | harken, ”, in n. , Oxford, Oxfordshire: OED Online Oxford University Press, 1898; “ hearken, ”, in v. , Lexico Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
Further reading Edit hearken in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911