ca·​reer | \ kə-ˈrir How to pronounce career (audio) \

Definition of career

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling a career in medicine often used before another nouna career diplomat
2 : a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life Washington's career as a soldier
3a : speed in a course used especially in the phrases in full career or at full careerThe trumpets sounded, and the knights charged each other in full career.— Sir Walter Scott
b : course, passage the sun's career across the sky


careered; careering; careers

Definition of career (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to go at top speed especially in a headlong manner a car careered off the road

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Careen and Career


Some people might be confused by the warning to not confuse careen and career, because the most common sense of career ("a profession") is not much like any of the meanings of careen. But when employed as a verb, career does have some semantic overlap with careen; both words may be used to mean "to go at top speed especially in a headlong manner." A car, for instance, may either careen or career. Some usage guides hold, however, that the car is only careening if there is side-to-side motion, as careen has other meanings related to movement, among which is "to sway from side to side."

Did You Know?


Chances are you're very familiar with the noun career meaning "a profession followed as a permanent occupation." What you may not know is that the word career got its start in the world of medieval tournaments. Jousting required knights to ride at full speed in short bursts, and 16th-century English speakers used the noun "career" (from Middle French carriere) to refer to such gallops as well as to the courses knights rode. By the mid-17th century, the verb had acquired its general "go fast" meaning, and by the 19th century the noun had developed the workaday use that is common today. (In case you're wondering, "career" is not related to "careen," which also means "to move at high speed"; "careen" has nautical origins, tracing to the Latin word for "hull.")

Examples of career in a Sentence

Noun She hopes to pursue a career in medicine. My career as a waitress lasted one day. During his long career in advertising he won numerous awards and honors. Verb she careered off to the class she'd almost forgotten
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Phoenix’s Rex Chapman makes a playoff-record nine three-point shots en route to a career-high 42 points in the Suns’ 106-101 win over the Sonics at KeyArena in Seattle. John Scheibe, Los Angeles Times, "This day in sports: Dodgers come out swinging in return from strike," 25 Apr. 2020 But the Pop style Warhol pioneered in his 1962 paintings of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s Soup cans occupied only a small part of his career. Blake Gopnik, WSJ, "Art Without Artworks," 24 Apr. 2020 Jones, a native of North Mississippi, has spent his coaching career in Mississippi and Alabama. Ben Thomas |, al, "Elberta High football coach/AD Lanny Jones steps down without coaching a game," 23 Apr. 2020 Across Extraction’s three-month shoot, as temperatures soared and Hemsworth pushed himself to complete the most ambitious stunts of his career, failure of imagination didn’t exactly pose a problem. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "Chris Hemsworth calls ‘Extraction’ the ‘most exhausting’ shoot of his career," 23 Apr. 2020 Over the course of his career, Will has switched sides in those arguments. Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, "What Matters in the Constitution," 23 Apr. 2020 Smith settled in a safety right away by establishing a career-high 104 tackles in his rookie season. Tyler James, Indianapolis Star, "Ranking Notre Dame's top NFL Draft picks of the Brian Kelly era," 22 Apr. 2020 Whatever chains once held Fiona Apple have long melted into air, and set her loose on a new phase of her creative career. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Fiona Apple Gets Free," 21 Apr. 2020 Rick Bass, a Field & Stream contributor, has spent his career as an essayist covering some of the most important conservation issues of our time, taking a special interest in the protection of the grizzly bear. Outdoor Life, "Four books every hunter should read," 20 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Coleman - who was fortunate to avoid a straight red card for an earlier challenge - received his marching orders soon after the restart, the Irishman careering into McNeil's head with his shoulder to earn himself a second yellow., "Burnley 1-0 Everton: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Jeff Hendrick Punishes Ten-Man Toffees," 5 Oct. 2019 What was Barbara thinking about, when the bus was careering toward her? New York Times, "‘All Adults Here,’ by Emma Straub: An Excerpt," 5 May 2020 This movement, like that one, is driven by a distrust/hatred of all the old trusted institutions: career public servants, the press, the scientific community and subject-matter expertise. Gilbert Garcia,, "Garcia: Protesters willing to play Russian roulette with COVID-19," 22 Apr. 2020 The incident bore a disquieting similarity to the 2017 attack on the bridge, in which a van careered onto the sidewalk, mowing down pedestrians, before three attackers leapt from the vehicle and struck people with knives., "“It has been declared a terrorist incident,” said Neil Basu, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. “I must stress, however, that we retain an open mind as to any motive.”," 1 Dec. 2019 The episode bore a disquieting similarity to the 2017 attack on the bridge, in which a van careered onto the sidewalk, mowing down pedestrians, before three attackers leaped from the vehicle and struck people with knives. Mark Landler, New York Times, "Stabbings Around London Bridge Kill 2 in ‘Terrorist Incident’," 29 Nov. 2019 Yet none has dared to write a prescription as explicit as the one The Good Place is now careering toward. Judy Berman, Time, "The Good Place Became the Last Great Sitcom on Network TV by Daring Its Audience to Be Better," 23 Jan. 2020 When Duncan shocked the NBA world — including many of his former coaches and teammates — by coming out of retirement last season to join the Spurs’ coaching staff, few believed it was meant to be a stepping stone to career on the bench. Jeff Mcdonald,, "If the Spurs’ season is over, now what?," 14 Mar. 2020 Sean McDermott had 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists (career high). David Woods, Indianapolis Star, "Tucker, Baldwin lead Butler past DePaul, ending three-game losing streak," 1 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'career.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of career


circa 1534, in the meaning defined at sense 3a


1647, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for career


Middle French carriere, from Old Occitan carriera street, from Medieval Latin carraria road for vehicles, from Latin carrus car

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Time Traveler for career

Time Traveler

The first known use of career was circa 1534

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Statistics for career

Last Updated

28 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Career.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for career


How to pronounce career (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of career

: a job or profession that someone does for a long time
: a period of time spent in a job or profession


ca·​reer | \ kə-ˈrir How to pronounce career (audio) \

Kids Definition of career

1 : a period of time spent in a job or profession She had a long career in medicine.
2 : a job followed as a life's work He made teaching his career.

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More from Merriam-Webster on career

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for career

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with career

Spanish Central: Translation of career

Nglish: Translation of career for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of career for Arabic Speakers

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