Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An agent, such as yeast, that causes batter or dough to rise, especially by fermentation.
  • n. An element, influence, or agent that works subtly to lighten, enliven, or modify a whole.
  • transitive v. To add a rising agent to.
  • transitive v. To cause to rise, especially by fermentation.
  • transitive v. To pervade with a lightening, enlivening, or modifying influence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any agent used to make dough rise or to have a similar effect on baked goods.
  • v. To add a leavening agent.
  • v. To cause to rise by fermentation.
  • v. To temper an action or decision.
  • v. To imbue; to infect; to vitiate.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Any substance that produces, or is designed to produce, fermentation, as in dough or liquids; esp., a portion of fermenting dough, which, mixed with a larger quantity of dough, produces a general change in the mass, and renders it light; yeast; barm.
  • n. Anything which makes a general assimilating (especially a corrupting) change in the mass.
  • transitive v. To make light by the action of leaven; to cause to ferment.
  • transitive v. To imbue; to infect; to vitiate.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To excite fermentation in; raise and make light, as dough or paste.
  • To imbue; work upon by some invisible or powerful influence.
  • To ripen; mature.
  • n. See leven.
  • n. A substance that produces or is designed to produce fermentation, especially in dough; specifically, a mass of fermenting dough, which, mixed with a larger quantity of dough or paste, produces fermentation in it and renders it light.
  • n. Something that resembles leaven in its effects, as some secret or impalpable influence working a general change, especially a change for the worse.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an influence that works subtly to lighten or modify something
  • v. cause to puff up with a leaven
  • n. a substance used to produce fermentation in dough or a liquid

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French levain, from Vulgar Latin *levāmen, from Latin levāre, to raise; see legwh- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Middle English levain, from Old French, from Late Latin levamen, instead of levamentum, ultimately from Latin levō ("I raise"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • We are leaven, in heaven. leaven-# a substance used to produce fermentation in dough or a liquid

    Propeller Most Popular Stories

  • "_But_," he resumed, with renewed seriousness -- "_But ef Christians on'y knowed it_, dey kin put a _little leaven o 'solid Christianity_ in all de charity flour dey gi'es away, an' hit'll _leaven de whole lot_ so strong dat _too much water can't spile it_, nur _too much fire can't scorch it_, nur _too much fore-sight_ (ur whatever dis heah is de

    Moriah's Mourning and Other Half-Hour Sketches

  • So "leaven" is used of false doctrine (Mt 16: 12: compare Mt 13: 33).

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

  • The disciples did not understand him as referring to their doctrine, because the word leaven was not often used among the

    Barnes New Testament Notes

  • Apostle Paul also makes clear, saying: Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, and That ye may be unleavened, not having any leaven (for he calls leaven wickedness), but that ye may be a new dough.

    A Source Book for Ancient Church History

  • But whether we call the leaven a good or evil thing makes little difference.

    Essays in Rebellion

  • The disciples, whose minds were occupied with their lack of provisions, the moment they heard the word leaven, thought of bread, concluded it must be because of its absence that he spoke of leaven, and imagined perhaps a warning against some danger of defilement from

    Unspoken Sermons Second Series

  • Jews in searching every corner of their houses, and "purging out" every particle of leaven from the time of killing the lamb before the

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

  • For even -- an additional reason, besides that in 1Co 5: 6, and a more cogent one for purging out every leaven of evil; namely, that Christ has been already sacrificed, whereas the old leaven is yet unremoved, which ought to have been long ago purged out.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

  • The exclusion of leaven for seven days would not be attended with inconvenience in the East, where the usual leaven is dough kept till it becomes sour, and it is kept from one day to another for the purpose of preserving leaven in readiness.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

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Comments

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  • An autoantonym: change for the better v. change for the worse. Discussion here.

    November 11, 2014

  • Somewhere in the back of our minds had been the belief that my being in drag would leaven the horror. And if I laugh at any mortal thing. 'Tis that I may not weep. It had failed in the way that comic music at a funeral can fail. From "The Last Werewolf" by Glen Duncan.

    February 28, 2012

  • I shall pass over in silence the description of a thousand ceremonies, necessary to be gone through, in order to my return into the bosom of the church; suffice it to say, that I forswore Mahometanism with much more sincerity than I had pledged myself to it. After having entirely purged myself from my Algerine leaven, I sold my ship, and set all my slaves at liberty.

    - Lesage, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane, tr. Smollett, bk 5 ch. 1

    September 19, 2008