From Middle English levain, a borrowing from Old French, from Late Latin levāmen, instead of levamentum, ultimately from Latin levō(I raise).



leaven (plural leavens)

  1. Any agent used to make dough rise or to have a similar effect on baked goods.
  2. (figuratively) Anything that makes a general assimilating change in the mass.
    • Bible, Luke xii. 1
      Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

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leaven (third-person singular simple present leavens, present participle leavening, simple past and past participle leavened)

  1. (transitive) To add a leavening agent.
  2. (transitive) To cause to rise by fermentation.
  3. (transitive, figuratively) To temper an action or decision.
    • 1992, Rudolf M. Schuster, The Hepaticae and Anthocerotae of North America: East of the Hundredth Meridian, volume V, page vii
      With fresh material, taxonomic conclusions are leavened by recognition that the material examined reflects the site it occupied; a herbarium packet gives one only a small fraction of the data desirable for sound conclusions. Herbarium material does not, indeed, allow one to extrapolate safely: what you see is what you get []
  4. To imbue; to infect; to vitiate.
    • Milton
      With these and the like deceivable doctrines, he leavens also his prayer.

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