General English

  • verb to open your mouth wide and breathe in and out deeply when you are tired or bored


  • noun a reflex action when tired or sleepy, in which the mouth is opened wide and after a deep intake of air, the breath exhaled slowly
  • verb to open the mouth wide and breathe in deeply and then breathe out slowly


  • noun something extremely boring, dull or uninspiring. A colloquial term, particularly prevalent in middle-class usage. It is either a noun, as in ‘the film was a total yawn’ or an interjection, as in ‘they took us round the exhibition – yawn!’. A racier alternative is yawnsville.
  • verb (to) vomit. Although particularly popular in Australia, where it is often embellished to technicolour yawn, the usage also exists in Britain and the USA.

Origin & History of “yawn”

Yawn goes back ultimately to the Indo-European base *ghei-, *ghi-, which also produced Greek kháskein ‘gape’ (a close relative of English chasm (17th c.)) and Latin hiāre ‘gape, yawn’ (source of English hiatus (16th c.)). The base passed into prehistoric Germanic as *gai-, *gi-, whose surviving descendants are German gähnen, Dutch geeuwen, and English yawn. English gap and gape probably come from an extension of the same Indo-European base.