in the wake of


  1. the track of waves left by a ship or other object moving through the water: The wake of the boat glowed in the darkness.
  2. the path or course of anything that has passed or preceded: The tornado left ruin in its wake.
  1. in the wake of,
    1. as a result of: An investigation followed in the wake of the scandal.
    2. succeeding; following: in the wake of the pioneers.

verb wakes, waking, woke or woken

  1. (often foll by up) to rouse or become roused from sleep
  2. (often foll by up) to rouse or become roused from inactivity
  3. (intr; often foll by to or up to) to become conscious or awareat last he woke to the situation
  4. (intr) to be or remain awake
  5. (tr) to arouse (feelings etc)
  6. dialect to hold a wake over (a corpse)
  7. archaic, or dialect to keep watch over
  8. wake up and smell the coffee informal to face up to reality, especially in an unpleasant situation


  1. a watch or vigil held over the body of a dead person during the night before burial
  2. (in Ireland) festivities held after a funeral
  3. the patronal or dedication festival of English parish churches
  4. a solemn or ceremonial vigil
  5. (usually plural) an annual holiday in any of various towns in northern England, when the local factory or factories close, usually for a week or two weeks
  6. rare the state of being awake


  1. the waves or track left by a vessel or other object moving through water
  2. the track or path left by anything that has passedwrecked houses in the wake of the hurricane

“state of wakefulness,” Old English -wacu (as in nihtwacu “night watch”), related to watch; and partly from Old Norse vaka “vigil, eve before a feast,” related to vaka “be awake” (cf. Old High German wahta “watch, vigil,” Middle Dutch wachten “to watch, guard;” see wake (v.)). Meaning “a sitting up at night with a corpse” is attested from early 15c. (the verb in this sense is recorded from mid-13c.). The custom largely survived as an Irish activity. Wakeman (c.1200), which survives as a surname, was Middle English for “watchman.”


“to become awake,” Old English wacan “to become awake,” also from wacian “to be or remain awake,” both from Proto-Germanic *waken (cf. Old Saxon wakon, Old Norse vaka, Danish vaage, Old Frisian waka, Dutch waken, Old High German wahhen, German wachen “to be awake,” Gothic wakan “to watch”), from PIE root *weg- “to be strong, be lively” (cf. Sanskrit vajah “force, swiftness, race, prize,” vajayati “drives on;” Latin vegere, vigere “to be live, be active, quicken,” vigil “awake, wakeful,” vigor “liveliness, activity”). Causative sense “to rouse from sleep” is attested from c.1300. Related: Waked; waking. Phrase wake-up call is attested from 1976, originally a call one received from the hotel desk in the morning.


“track left by a moving ship,” 1540s, perhaps from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch wake “hole in the ice,” from Old Norse vok, vaka “hole in the ice,” from Proto-Germanic *wakwo. The sense perhaps evolved via “track made by a vessel through ice.” Perhaps the English word is directly from Scandinavian. Figurative phrase in the wake of “following close behind” is recorded from 1806.

A funeral celebration, common in Ireland, at which the participants stay awake all night keeping watch over the body of the dead person before burial. A wake traditionally involves a good deal of feasting and drinking.


Following directly on, as in In the wake of the procession, a number of small children came skipping down the aisle. This usage alludes to the waves made behind a passing vessel. [c. 1800]


In the aftermath of, as a consequence of, as in Famine often comes in the wake of war. [Mid-1800s]

In addition to the idioms beginning with wake

, also see

  • in the wake of
  • to wake the dead


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