10

Is there is a single verb that describes the action of becoming more alert and attentive to something?

If a teacher were to rivet students with an engrossing story or if a passerby were to strike up a conversation with a preoccupied stranger sitting on a bench what would be a word for the action of the students or the stranger in letting their attention be engaged? We use the phrase "catch someones attention" to describe the action of the teacher or passerby, but we don't often describe the way the students or stranger lets themselves be distracted.

EXAMPLE: "So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately ________ with curiosity."

I'm specifically looking for a word similar to straightened/perked/piqued, however these examples are insufficient for one reason or another. Although straightened captures the bodily gesture I am looking for it is too general of a word and neglects to signify curiosity. Perked signifies a cheerfulness or liveliness rather than a stimulation of interest. And piqued too frequently carries the connotation of irritation or resentment.

EDIT:

I find it necessary to add this clarification to my question now that I have observed the direction of the answers. As FumbleFingers pointed out, I have "unwittingly restricted the scope of possible answers" to a precise context, and I apologize for not originally providing the sentence in which I intend to use the word. I neglected to do so because I thought the context would be difficult to explain in a concise manner and wrongly assumed it would be unnecessary to the discovery of a suitable word.

The sentence belongs to a novel I am writing in which a building, named Mançion, is sentient. Madee, the so and so, grows up in this building and is its close companion. It communicates with her via telepathy. At this particular point in the story Madee is wandering around Mançion as is her regular wont for the past decade since the building has countless rooms of incomparable wonder and beauty. While she is wandering absentmindedly the building asks her if she is ready to go for a walk. Given how normal walks are for her, (and the fact that she is already on a walk) the question strikes her as peculiar and catches her attention. Understanding this context I am looking for a word that will express the way she alters from absentminded wandering to a rather calm curiosity. Most of the words that have already been suggested carry too much liveliness or energy in their implication, which is out of keeping with the mood of the scene and therefore why I cannot use them.

The actual sentence in which I will be using this word is as follows:

Madee _____ with curiosity and followed Mançion down a passageway that opened in the wall.

It is true that I have chosen to retain with curiosity in the sentence. I feel that the mood would not be conveyed as adequately without it. Perhaps I just assume that no word would capture the almost absentminded perking of attention while still conveying a hint of curiosity. I apologize for being so persnickety. It is more than likely that no word exists which precisely conforms to the definition I am seeking and I will merely have to satisfy myself with one of the answers that have been provided or adjust my sentence.

P.S. alwayslearning seems to have caught on to the gist of what I'm looking for.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • How do you follow a sentient mansion down its own corridor? Does he have a mobile entity within himself? Just trying to picture the scene here... – Spagirl Sep 23 '16 at 10:13
  • 1
    (This is just by way of explaining why I didn't explicitly select a recipient for my bounty.) When I offered it, I pointed out that I thought OP had unreasonably restricted the range of possible answers by asking us to "fill in the blank" with Madee _____ with curiosity (arguably with curiosity won't fit well with a verb that actually means to become more interested). But that restrictive context hasn't been changed, and several of the answers here have ignored the restriction anyway, so I've just allowed the system to autoselect who gets the bounty. – FumbleFingers Sep 28 '16 at 19:44
  • @Spagirl Yes and no. The mansion does not have a physical mobile entity within itself like a humanoid body. But it's spirit does interact with those inside of it as though it's spirit was in some ways a distinctly bodied entity within its own physical walls. So when I say that Madee followed Mançion I am attempting to imply that she sensed it's spirit drawing her there. My readers would understand this at this point in the novel. More an embellishment and personal style than a necessity since the presence of the passageway and the question themselves already imply a beckoning of sorts. – Peter Sep 29 '16 at 7:09

23 Answers 23

5

After some consideration, my best suggestion is:

Stir verb

to move or cause (someone or something) to move after being still

Madee stirred with curiosity and followed Mançion down a passageway that opened in the wall.

In my mind, "stirred" is fitting because it has an appropriate definition, but also conjures an image of being awoken by an unseen actor.

4

Captivate verb

to attract and hold the attention of (someone) by being interesting, pretty, etc.

So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and [was] immediately captivated with curiosity.

4
+25

Perhaps riveted serves.

"So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately was riveted."

2.2 Direct (one's eyes or attention) intently.
‘all eyes were riveted on him’

Reference:
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/rivet

4

The additional information provided in the edited version of the question is helpful. Because the communication is telepathic, and because you emphasize the subtlety and calmness of the response, and because you prefer to retain the use of the phrase with curiosity in any case, I'm inclined to suggest that the change in consciousness be signaled by the slightest and subtlest of, perhaps involuntary, physical gestures.

Madee smiled with curiosity and followed Mançion down a passageway that opened in the wall.

or

Madee flushed with curiosity and followed...

or, maybe,

Madee brightened with curiosity and followed...

3

So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately roused with curiosity.

ODO:

rouse VERB

1.1 [NO OBJECT] Cease to sleep or to be inactive; wake up.

‘she roused and looked around’

‘Harry wakes up weary, but rouses quickly and showers, resigned to being late for the day's meetings.’

3

From Merriam-Webster:

start: to react with a sudden brief involuntary movement

From Dictionary.com:

start: to give a sudden, involuntary jerk, jump, or twitch, as from a shock of surprise, alarm, or pain

From The Free Dictionary:

start: to move one's body or a part of it suddenly or involuntarily

The OP's example:

"So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation, and [so and so] immediately started with curiosity."

Students would react the same way to a riveting story by their teacher:

"The students started to (or with) attention."

Update: Just saw the OP's edit. With the new example:

"Madee started with curiosity and followed Mançion down a passageway that opened in the wall."

An example showing literary precedent:

D'Amarrs arose and strolling over towards where Miss Warnerston had been conducted on the conclusion of the set, by her partner, he seated himself on the side opposite to the one occupied by the officer, and bending toward the lady's ear, "Miss Warnerston," said he, "can you keep a secret?"

She started with curiosity and surprise.

Why not?—indeed I can—try me;" were exclamations that quickly followed one another.

[Example source: New Monthly magazine, volume 62 by Thomas Campbell et al.]

  • Oh, you punk, you beat me to it. I think this is absolutely going to be the best single-word answer to this question. Allow me to give you the literary example I was going to use in my answer: She started with curiosity and surprise. – pyobum Sep 27 '16 at 5:11
  • 1
    @pyobum I'll take punk as a compliment in this instance. :-) I've been puzzling over the question, trying to put my finger on the right word ... BTW, it's raining where I am, and I just saw a large toad. It started when it sensed my presence. – Richard Kayser Sep 27 '16 at 5:24
  • Ha, life imitating...EL&U. (Raining here too. Alas, no toads to be seen.) If you like, I'll edit in the pertinent text from that link I posted above (I think it'll strengthen the answer). I'll just have to settle for "comment credit" this time around. – pyobum Sep 27 '16 at 5:31
  • @pyobum Glad to share the credit with you ... if there is any credit to be shared. Have a good night. It's 1:36 a.m. here. Have to get up at 7:00 a.m. ELU is addictive ... and we are users. – Richard Kayser Sep 27 '16 at 5:39
  • I'll go ahead and edit in at the bottom. Good night. – pyobum Sep 27 '16 at 5:50
2

Engross or Enthral is the word you are looking for.

Engross- Absorb all the attention or interest of.

Enthral- capture the fascinated attention of.

So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately engrossed/enthralled with curiosity.

  • I think these are too "long-term" if you know what I mean - they describe your attention being held for a long time, rather than a sudden change in attention. – Max Williams Sep 20 '16 at 16:19
2

It's sadly prosaic, but the single-word verb that comes closest to meaning "pay attention" in the contexts described is listen:

intransitive verb

  1. : to pay attention to sound
  2. : to hear something with thoughtful attention : give consideration

("Listen." Merriam-Webster.com)

The movie sound company THX plays on this double-meaning of hearing and paying attention in their famously deafening tag, The Audience is Listening.

Thus, from the OP's examples:

If a teacher were to rivet students with an engrossing story, the children would listen. (The children could also be said to listen to either the teacher or the story.)

So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately listened (in) with curiosity.

Additional modifiers can be added to sharpen the meaning; perhaps the children in the first example listened in fascination or attentively or, as in the other example, with curiosity.

For a single-word verb form of "paying attention" that is not as tied to sound, the obvious, still unexciting, choice is attend:

transitive verb

  1. : to pay attention to

...

intransitive verb

  1. : to apply oneself
  2. : to apply the mind or pay attention : heed

("Attend." Merriam-Webster.com)

Thus

The children attended to the riveting story.

So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately attended with curiosity.

and also

The children attended to the riveting mime act.

So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she saw her friend kissing a stranger out of the corner of her eye and immediately attended with curiosity.

I'm not sure either of these works very well with the example of someone being caught up in conversation, though attended allows for more possibility of interaction. In that context, something like engage would probably make more sense.

  • Upvote for 'attend' which is what I would have suggested. It does feel ever so slightly slightly literary or archaic, but I think that is because mostly we would recast the sentence to something like, ' pricked up her ears' or 'strained her hearing to catch the conversation' (for my money both the immediacy and curiosity are redundant, but that's probably a style preference). – Spagirl Sep 21 '16 at 10:22
2

In Peter's original question he said

'We use the phrase "catch someones attention" to describe the action of the teacher or passerby, but we don't often describe the way the students or stranger lets themselves be distracted' [my emphasis]

I think we do. We say their attention is caught/something caught their attention, the very phrase Peter used in his question headline. Of course it is a phrase not a single word, but I wonder if the question is actually looking for a word somewhere between 'the act of having one's attention caught' and 'the manner in which one reacts to having one's attention caught'?

Anyway, for what it's worth I'd rephrase the example sentence to:

"So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when the mention of her friend's name in a nearby conversation caught her attention."

or

"So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when her attention was caught by the mention of her friend's name in a nearby conversation."

Both require ditching the 'with curiosity' element, but that part of the example sentence never worked well with the phrases we were looking for a single word to replace anyway.

"So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately became more alert with curiosity."
or
"...and immediately became more attentive with curiosity."

So I think if curiosity is not regarded as implicit in 'attention-catching' it needs to be accommodated differently. Maybe

"So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when her attention was caught by the mention of her friend's name in a nearby conversation. Fired by curiosity, she strained to hear."

2

How about quicken?

quicken: to become more active, sensitive, etc. [Dictionary.com]

quicken: to become excited or stimulated; to become alive [The Free Dictionary]

quicken: to become faster or more active [Cambridge]

And the OP's example:

"So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and [so and so] immediately quickened with curiosity."

One could fill in the blank with other words, such as brimmed, but I don't think those capture the OP's desired sense of so and so's physical or emotional reaction to the words of the speaker.

Update: Just saw the OP's edit. With the new example:

"Madee quickened with curiosity and followed Mançion down a passageway that opened in the wall."

  • I've never heard of quicken as being used to convey an increase in sensitivity. I like the idea, I'm just surprised. I think it is a good candidate, but may, like perked, be a bit more animated than I want. (I appreciate all the good comments by the way.) – Peter Sep 17 '16 at 0:23
  • @Peter You asked a good question. The definition of quicken speaks for itself. :-) – Richard Kayser Sep 17 '16 at 0:49
  • Quicken synonyms: stimulate, excite, stir up, arouse, rouse, waken, animate, activate, incite, galvanize, instigate, whet, inspire, kindle, fan, refresh, strengthen, invigorate, reanimate, reactivate, revive, revitalize, resuscitate, revivify. – FumbleFingers Sep 20 '16 at 22:22
1

When I read that example sentence the most straightforward possibility is filled with.

Our heroine was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and it immediately filled her with curiosity.

fill 1.5: Cause (someone) to experience a strong emotion or feeling. ‘his presence filled us with foreboding’ - ODO

However, I think the example sentence is somehow constrained. Almost every other suggested possibility needs some additional modal or pronoun as well.

Addressing the question a bit more freely I would suggest the following

Our heroine was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and it immediately piqued her curiosity.

[WITH OBJECT] Arouse (interest or curiosity)

‘with his scientific curiosity piqued, he was looking forward to being able to analyse his find’ - ODO

  • 1
    I can't let peaked her curiosity go unchallenged. – FumbleFingers Sep 20 '16 at 22:20
  • @FumbleFingers thank you, I just learned something. Damn those homophones. – Helmar Sep 21 '16 at 8:33
  • I've cancelled my downvote, but I won't upvote because I don't think filled [with] really means anything without a specific noun. And although OP's example context is ____ with curiosity, to me the question title implies that he's looking for something which in and of itself alludes to "curiosity, interest, close attention". On the other hand, That piqued her is a credible utterance - but it would usually mean that annoyed her, rather than excited her interest [in a positive way]. – FumbleFingers Sep 22 '16 at 13:40
1

I'd suggest intrigue. According to the dictionaries-
MW:

:to arouse the interest, desire, or curiosity of
-intrigued by the tale.
-the mystery story intrigued me .


Dictionary.com:

:to arouse the curiosity or interest of by unusual, new, or otherwise fascinating or compelling qualities; appeal strongly to; captivate:
**-The plan intrigues me. **


Macmillan:

:to make someone very interested in knowing more about something, especially something that seems mysterious
-That old house has always intrigued me.


Might fit better for your latter context.

The question intrigued her.
Madee intrigued by the question..


Though I think it is not essential to write curiosity if we consider intrigued. Intrigue does connote 'calm curiosity' alongwith 'aroused with curiosity.'
Just thought you might want to consider.

  • Intrigue was mentioned in a previous answer or comment, (I forget which,) and although I am partial to the word one of its two definitions as a verb proves a hindrance to my using it freely in this context. When someone is intrigued their curiosity is aroused. However, when someone intrigues they are surreptitiously plotting something illicit. If I were to write that "Madeline intrigued" the preexisting definition of the word would constrain my sentence to meaning that she began to plot rather than be aroused with curiosity. – Peter Feb 5 '17 at 0:07
  • I may be able to repurpose the word, but not without probably confusion to readers. – Peter Feb 5 '17 at 0:09
  • I hadn't and still don't see 'intrigue' mention in the post until now. I've re-worded my example because 'intrigued with curiosity' sounded all wrong and 'Madee intrigued' gave wrong sense. If you just write 'someone is/was intrigued' or 'intrigued me/him/her' it woud usually connote being 'aroused with curiosity' and wouldn't be confused with 'the scheming' like in my mentioned examples-intrigued by the tale; stroy intrigued me... Also mentioning the 'question' would add to the suspense that there was something about the ques. that 'intrigued her'. Anyways you are the writer; the choice is – Nikki Feb 5 '17 at 4:06
  • You're right. I can't find intrigued mentioned anywhere previously. I thought it had been. My bad. – Peter Feb 5 '17 at 4:50
  • @Peter What about my suggestion? english.stackexchange.com/questions/348312/… – Soha Farhin Pine Jul 3 '17 at 14:26
1

I feel the word struck would fit nicely into it, even though it isn't the exact kind of word you wanted. Nonetheless, it can perfectly match the context.

The sentence can be completed as the following (I made some trivial changes to the original. by, in my opinion, better expresses the suddenness of the action) -

Madee, struck by curiosity, followed Mançion down a passageway that opened in the wall.

Or if you wanted the curiosity to have been awakened very suddenly:

Madee, suddenly struck with/by curiosity, followed Mançion down a passageway that opened in the wall.

You can also use the word overcome. A similar word is rouse, which has already been suggested by someone else.


Update

If you wanted to sound less poetic and more realistic...

"Dear, let's go for a walk." Walk? But she took walks everyday, not to mention the fact that she already was on a walk that very moment. Something was different about him today.

Madee, surprised and curious, followed Mançion down a passageway that opened in the wall.

You wouldn't be that curious just because your friend says something out of the ordinary. You would be slightly surprised and curiosity will naturally follow. Things don't have to be this complicated.

X: Madee, why don't we change tracks?
M: What on earth do you mean, you buffoon?
X (smirking): It is time.
M (surprised): Huh?
X: Don't 'huh'. You know what I mean.
M (curious): What do you mean? Does this has anything to do with...erm...Rasello?
X: Yeah. I've news. Follow me.

0

hearken "to give heed or attention to what is said; listen" (dictionary.com)

It's related to "Hark! I hear a [whatever]."

This is old-fashioned, though. Unfortunately, I can't think of an equivalent which is exactly one word.

  • I hadn't thought of hearkened. Not what I'm looking for, but a good one to keep in my repertoire. Thanks. :) – Peter Sep 17 '16 at 0:10
0

A possibility is the word bristled. Normally, we associate bristling as a reaction which indicates annoyance, irritation, anger, and offense. However, I kind of like the sound of the word when it's used in your exemplar sentence.

So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately bristled with curiosity.

One problem with bristle, however, is that it could denote that "so and so" was annoyed to hear her friend's name mentioned, particularly if the friend was being criticized, ridiculed, or otherwise abused verbally. Still, the word bristle fits! It denotes the immediate attention and focus of the listener.

  • 1
    I think that the fact that you have to insert was means that you're not answering the OP's question, which concerns how the students or stranger react to something that interests or arouses them or gets their attention. As I read it, it's about what the students or strangers do, not what is done to them. – Richard Kayser Sep 14 '16 at 1:44
  • @RichardKayser: I agree with you. The more I think about it, the more I realize my huge list of possibles are not possible! I still think, however, "bristled" has some merit, though I wouldn't stake my life on it. Don – rhetorician Sep 14 '16 at 20:59
  • @Don Good edit. I agree that "bristled" meets the minimum requirements of the OP's question. I had to read it several times before I understood it. Thanks. – Richard Kayser Sep 14 '16 at 22:07
  • I like bristled, but under the context I think that it also carries the wrong nuance. – Peter Sep 17 '16 at 0:14
  • I like bristled and am giving it a vote. It's true that many of the dictionary definitions emphasize anger or fear, but the Oxford Dictionaries website allows that horripilation may be due to anger, fear, or excitement. Without the qualifying phrase, with curiosity, I would read bristled as irritation, but, with that qualification, I think it works. – user193445 Sep 23 '16 at 17:01
0

"So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately burned with curiosity."

3 Be entirely possessed by (a desire or an emotion)
‘Martha was burning with curiosity’

Reference:
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/burn

0

I think I found a good verb that actually fits the example sentence.

Her Holiness was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately burned with curiosity.

And here comes the Oxford Dictionary Online with the example as back up.

burn 3 VERB: Be entirely possessed by (a desire or an emotion)

‘Martha was burning with curiosity’ - ODO

0

An audience is either captivated or entranced, when their attention and interest has been so firmly taken hold of.

captivate

(verb) cap·ti·vate \ˈkap-tə-ˌvāt\

  1. archaic : seize, capture

  2. to influence and dominate by some special charm, art, or trait and with an irresistible appeal

Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/captivate

entrance

(verb) en·trance \in-ˈtran(t)s, en-\

  1. to put into a trance

  2. to carry away with delight, wonder, or rapture

Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/entrance

0

...immediately resonated with curiosity.

resonate: to have particular meaning or importance for someone : to affect or appeal to someone in a personal or emotional way (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary)

From a more scientific point of view, resonance is the condition of an applied frequency matching a natural frequency of system, causing reinforced oscillation, and maximum response. A reader aware of this meaning will make the analogy that the sound of the friend's name being heard is like the system being vibrated at the right (resonant) frequency.

0

immediately ________ with curiosity.

I can't think of a single word for this, but there is a well-known idiom:

immediately pricked up her ears.

It comes from the way that a cat, for instance, pricks up its ears when it hears a sudden sound. (But it doesn't apply to your example of students being riveted by an engrossing story.)

0

The question asks for a single verb that describes the action of becoming more alert and attentive to something. That would seem to call for an active verb that would take the class or, in the example sentence, so and so, as the acting subject. Passive constructions (being mesmerized, captivated, etc.) do not really satisfy this requirement. I have been unsuccessful in the search for a stand-alone verb that satisfies the order; however, there are 2 phrasal verbs that come close: zero in and home in.

"So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately zeroed in with curiosity."

The MacMillan Dictionary website offers the following definition:

zero in on someone/something: to start to give all your attention to a particular person or thing.

Home in is another possibility. The Oxford Dictionaries website offers this as a definition:

2.1 Focus attention on.

It offers this as one of the example sentences:

Often, the listener can home in on very tiny details, not noticed at first.

With respect to the similar expression, hone in, the Merriam-Webster website discourages its use with the following observation:

The few commentators who have noticed hone in consider it to be a mistake for home in. It may have arisen from home in by the weakening of the \m\ sound to \n\ or may perhaps simply be due to the influence of hone. Though it seems to have established itself in American English (and mention in a British usage book suggests it is used in British English too), your use of it especially in writing is likely to be called a mistake. Home in or in figurative use zero in does nicely.

Yet another possibility is another phrasal verb, tune in. Wiktionary.org indicates that the expression may be used, idiomatically, in the sense of to pay attention.

0

sit up

So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately sat up with curiosity.

That almost works, as written. With a little rewriting it works better, for example:

Helen was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts. She sat up when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation.

I think "with curiosity" isn't needed if the verb is clear enough already.

Phrasal verb: 4. To become suddenly alert: The students sat up when he mentioned the test.

Reference: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sit

I am proposing this because in your question, you wrote, "straightened captures the bodily gesture I am looking for."

It works even better if you add -- but this is optional --

and take notice

So and so was sitting on a bench absorbed in her thoughts when she heard her friend's name mentioned in a nearby conversation and immediately sat up and took notice.

0

Still not a single word but was consumed or became consumed fit perfectly into your sentence, it becomes "Maddee was consumed with curiosity and followed Mançion down a passageway"

It may be a bit of a cliche but it does carry that feeling of suddenly being totally engrossed which I think you want.

I looked up synonyms for "consumed with curiosity" but none of them seemed to fit.

protected by tchrist Sep 15 '16 at 0:13

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