tran·​scend tran(t)-ˈsend How to pronounce transcend (audio)
transcended; transcending; transcends

transitive verb

: to rise above or go beyond the limits of
: to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects of : overcome
: to be prior to, beyond, and above (the universe or material existence)
: to outstrip or outdo in some attribute, quality, or power

intransitive verb

: to rise above or extend notably beyond ordinary limits

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When Should You Use transcend?

Great leaders are expected to transcend the limitations of politics, especially during wartime and national crises. A great writer may transcend geographical boundaries to become internationally respected. And certain laws of human nature seem to transcend historical periods and hold true for all times and all places.

Choose the Right Synonym for transcend

exceed, surpass, transcend, excel, outdo, outstrip mean to go or be beyond a stated or implied limit, measure, or degree.

exceed implies going beyond a limit set by authority or established by custom or by prior achievement.

exceed the speed limit

surpass suggests superiority in quality, merit, or skill.

the book surpassed our expectations

transcend implies a rising or extending notably above or beyond ordinary limits.

transcended the values of their culture

excel implies preeminence in achievement or quality and may suggest superiority to all others.

excels in mathematics

outdo applies to a bettering or exceeding what has been done before.

outdid herself this time

outstrip suggests surpassing in a race or competition.

outstripped other firms in sales

Example Sentences

music that transcends cultural boundaries She was able to transcend her own suffering and help others. Her concerns transcended local issues.
Recent Examples on the Web Ozon’s experimentation with multiple genres and experiences helps Everything Went Fine transcend its own concept — as well as the prestige-movie conceit of last year’s excellent Peaceful. Armond White, National Review, 7 Apr. 2023 Their builders often assume that the definition of life transcends an organism’s material form and is instead embodied in its functional properties—and who’s to say that is a correct strategy for generalizing life in the first place? Shi En Kim, Scientific American, 6 Apr. 2023 Modern while transcending trend—the perfect present for the lady in your life who defies any single definition. Lauren Hubbard,, 4 Apr. 2023 The genius is in the ways the songs both embrace and transcend their original meanings. Manuel Mendoza, Dallas News, 23 Mar. 2023 At its core, technology is a dream of expansion—a dream of reaching beyond the limits of the here and now, and of transcending the constraints of the physical environment: frontiers crossed, worlds conquered, networks spread. Stephen Marche, The Atlantic, 14 Mar. 2023 And that purpose — to de-glorify the horrors of trench warfare, mock the foolish vanity of nationalism and condemn the futility and cruelty of mass death — is one that should transcend barriers of language and culture anyway. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, 13 Mar. 2023 This is especially true for Levi’s® 501®, the jean that has been lived in and worn across the world, transcending borders, cultures, languages and generations. Leila Milgrim, Vogue, 8 Mar. 2023 Meanwhile, Shore absorbed and gradually transcended formal lessons from the masters of his medium, most notably Walker Evans. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 17 Feb. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'transcend.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Latin transcendere to climb across, transcend, from trans- + scandere to climb — more at scan

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of transcend was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near transcend

Cite this Entry

“Transcend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


tran·​scend tran(t)s-ˈend How to pronounce transcend (audio)
: to rise above or go beyond the limits of : exceed
: to be greatly superior to : surpass

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