See also: Yawn


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A kitten yawning.


Partly from Middle English yanen, yonen, yenen (to yawn), from Old English ġinian (to yawn, gape), from Proto-Germanic *ginōną (to yawn); and partly from Middle English gonen (to gape, yawn), from Old English gānian (to yawn, gape), from Proto-Germanic *gainōną (to yawn, gape); both from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰi-, *ǵʰeyh₁- (to yawn, gape). Cognate with North Frisian jåne (to yawn), Saterland Frisian jaanje, joanje (to yawn), Middle Dutch genen, ghenen (to yawn), German Low German jahnen (to yawn), German gähnen (to yawn, gape), dialectal Swedish gana (to gape, gawk), dialectal Norwegian gina (to gape).

Compare also Old Church Slavonic зѣѭ (zějǫ) (Russian зи́нуть (zínutʹ), зия́ть (zijátʹ)), Greek χαίνω (khaínō)), Latin hiō, Tocharian A śew, Tocharian B kāyā, Lithuanian žioti, Sanskrit जेह् (jeh)



yawn (third-person singular simple present yawns, present participle yawning, simple past and past participle yawned)

  1. (intransitive) To open the mouth widely and take a long, rather deep breath, often because one is tired or bored, and sometimes accompanied by pandiculation.
    I could see my students yawning, so I knew the lesson was boring them.
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, London: W. Taylor, p. ,[1]
      [] I found my self towards Evening, first empty and sickish at my Stomach, and nearer Night mightily enclin’d to yawning and sleepy []
    • c. 1773, John Trumbull, The Progress of Dulness, Exeter, New Hampshire: Henry Ranlet, 1794, Part 1, p. 19,[2]
      And while above he spends his breath,
      The yawning audience nod beneath.
  2. To say while yawning.
    • 1922, Stephen McKenna, The Secret Victory, New York: George H. Doran, Chapter Ten, p. 214,[3]
      “I haven’t the least idea what I want to do,” he yawned.
    • 1978, Andrew Holleran, The Dancer from the Dance, New York: Bantam, 1979, Chapter 8, p. 217,[4]
      “Oh,” Sutherland yawned, “I’m too old for this.”
  3. To present a wide opening.
    The canyon yawns as it has done for millions of years, and we stand looking, dumbstruck.
    Death yawned before us, and I hit the brakes.
    • c. 1600, William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2,[5]
      ’Tis now the very witching time of night,
      When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out
      Contagion to this world.
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 6, lines 874-875,[6]
      [] Hell at last
      Yawning receavd them whole, and on them clos’d,
  4. (obsolete) To open the mouth, or to gape, through surprise or bewilderment.
    • c. 1604, William Shakespeare, Othello, Act V, Scene 2,[7]
      [] O heavy hour!
      Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse
      Of sun and moon, and that the affrighted globe
      Should yawn at alteration.
    • 1606, Thomas Dekker, Nevves from hell brought by the Diuells carrier, London: W. Ferebrand, [8]
      [] Hell being vnder euerie one of their Stages, the Players (if they had owed him a spight) might with a false Trappe doore haue slipt him downe, and there kept him, as a laughing stocke to al their yawning Spectators.
  5. (obsolete) To be eager; to desire to swallow anything; to express desire by yawning.
    to yawn for fat livings
    • 1824, Walter Savage Landor, Imaginary Conversations, London: Taylor & Hessey, Volume I, “Milton and Andrew Marvel,” p. 6,[9]
      Fly not, as thou wert wont, to his embrace,
      Lest, after one long yawning gaze, he swear
      Thou art the best good fellow in the world,
      But he had quite forgotten thee, by Jove!

Derived termsEdit



yawn (plural yawns)

  1. The action of yawning; opening the mouth widely and taking a long, rather deep breath, often because one is tired or bored.
    • 1813, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 11,[10]
      At length, quite exhausted by the attempt to be amused with her own book, which she had only chosen because it was the second volume of his, she gave a great yawn and said, “How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! []
    • 1902, Joseph Conrad, Typhoon, Chapter 6,[11]
      But Mrs. MacWhirr, in the drawing-room [] , stifled a yawn—perhaps out of self-respect—for she was alone.
  2. (colloquial) A particularly boring event.
    The slideshow we sat through was such a yawn. I was glad when it finished.

Derived termsEdit