How is doze off different from just doze?

I think they mean the same thing— sleeping lightly. What's the difference between them?


We were watching a movie. When I turned to look at him, I discovered that he had dozed off.

To doze off means to transition from a wakeful state into a light sleep.

I was watching a movie in headphones. Now and then I turned to look at him to make sure he was still dozing.

To doze means to sleep lightly, but lacks this emphasis on transition from wakefulness to sleepiness.

Let's explore "still dozed", with and without off:

(still dozed) The two ponies still dozed at the hitching-rail.

The ponies continued to doze. "Still" is used in the sense "even then".

(still dozed off) She read the omnipresent billboards to keep awake but still dozed off a couple of times.

The woman was transitioning from wakefulness to light sleep and back a couple of times. "Still" is used in the sense "despite something" (despite her desire to stay awake).


Furthermore, per Damkerng T's comment and in agreement with Khan's awnswer, "dozing off" is done involuntarily, while you can "doze" at your will.

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    There's always that hint of having to provide a 'direction' where none is really appropriate. Like 'He went off home', or 'He went off to bed', or closer to our point 'He nodded off' which is obviously quite different to 'He nodded' – gone fishin' again. Nov 25 '14 at 8:17
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    Another way to put it, "to doze off" means "to drop off into a doze". (The first edition of Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines it that way.) -- This usually implies no intention to doze, as the other answer states. Macmillan Dictionary writes "doze off phrasal verb [intransitive]: to start to sleep, especially during the day and without intending to". – Damkerng T. Nov 25 '14 at 8:34
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    Thank you, @DamkerngT.! I've added a note on the involuntary nature of "dozing off". – CowperKettle Nov 25 '14 at 9:47

There is a little difference between the words "doze" and "doze off".

First, "doze" can be used as a verb as well as a noun, whereas "doze off" is used as a verb only.

Second, as a verb "doze" means to sleep lightly for a short period such as I like to doze after lunch in the afternoon. On the other hand, when we use "doze off" it means to start or fall into a light sleep without intending to such as she dozed off during the lecture in class.


Don't get much into the subtlety it has. Broadly, both mean the same. It's just that the verb doze is often followed by off. It's a way of writing.

Dictionary.com has this entry.

(often followed by 'off') to fall into a light sleep

The example follows

He dozed off during the sermon.

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    More accurately, dozed off is the process of falling asleep; dozing is the state of being asleep. Therefore, without any further context, I'd interpret he dozed during the sermon to mean that he slept through a good portion of the sermon, while he dozed off during the sermon would mean that, at some point during the sermon, he started to fall asleep. The second allows more for the possibility that the sleep was both light and momentary, and that he only missed a few short lines of the preaching. – J.R. Nov 25 '14 at 9:55
  • @J.R. Good point. The answer with highest number of votes states that. I read and learned. :) thanks anyway. – Maulik V Nov 25 '14 at 9:56
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    Learning is what ELL is all about :^) I'm learning new things here, too. – J.R. Nov 25 '14 at 9:57

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