Did you hear someone say they were ‘in awe’ or someone or something? What does this phrase mean, and how can you use it in a sentence?
In short, ‘in awe’ means “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with wonder or fear.” In this article, we’ll take a closer look at its meaning and origin as well as example sentences for the phrase.
The phrase ‘in awe’ is typically used in reference to someone or something and means “having a great deal of admiration or respect” for that person or thing.
It can also imply a level of fear or nervousness around the person or thing they are ‘in awe’ of, as it can imply a simultaneous feeling of reverence, wonder, and fear.
The word ‘awe’ comes from around the year 1300 with the meaning of “great reverence, terror, fear.” An earlier version of the word, aghe, dates back to around 1200.
The contemporary use of the word meaning “dread mixed veneration or admiration” comes from the way the word is used in the Bible. The phrase ‘to stand in awe’ comes from the early 15th century and initially was used without the word ‘in,’ as in ‘stand awe.’
In the Bible, we find many instances of the phrase ‘in awe.’ Here are some examples from the New American Standard Bible:
Looking at the Google Books Ngram Viewer, we see that the usage of the phrase ‘in awe’ is about as common today as it was in the year 1800. However, usage dropped starting at the turn of the 19th century and continued declining until reaching a plateau between the 1920s and the 1980s. Since then, ‘in awe’ has become more frequently used in texts.
The phrase ‘in awe’ appears in a work by John Milton, the 17th-century English poet, pamphleteer, and historian:
“True, and for that very reason fled is right here; because nothing more shows our not standing much in awe of a Man, than our fearing him.”
‘In awe’ also shows up in the works of Alexander Pope, an English poet, translator, and satirist that is considered one of the most important English poets of the early eighteenth century:
“Has yet a strange ambition to look worse;
Confounds the civil, keeps the rude in awe,
Jests like a licens’d fool, commands like law.”
How would you use 'in awe' in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples.
‘Awe’ is a powerful word that has been common for centuries. To help you gain a better sense of the way it has been used over time, let’s look at some famous quotes using the word ‘awe’ and the phrase ‘in awe.’
“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”
– Albert Einstein
“The first act of awe, when man was struck with the beauty or wonder of Nature, was the first spiritual experience.”
– Henryk Skolimowski
“We teach children how to measure and how to weigh. We fail to teach them how to revere, how to sense wonder and awe.”
– Harold S. Kushner
“In the original language, 'Fear the Lord' doesn't mean be afraid. It means sustaining a joyful, astonished awe, and wonder before Him.”
– Timothy Keller
“The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable.”
– Richard Dawkins
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”
– Albert Einstein
“Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.”
– Thomas Aquinas
“The job of a teacher is to excite in the young a boundless sense of curiosity about life, so that the growing child shall come to apprehend it with an excitement tempered by awe and wonder.”
– John Garrett
“To science, not even the bark of a tree or a drop of pond water is dull or a handful of dirt banal. They all arouse awe and wonder.”
– Jane Jacobs
“Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.”
– Immanuel Kant
What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to 'in awe'? Here are some options:
Are you ‘in awe’ of how many fascinating phrases there are in the English language? If so, head over to our idioms blog!