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 noun a 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 career The 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 Two nights after breaking Oscar Roberson’s record with his 182nd career triple-double, Westbrook came up a bit short of No. 183. Paul Newberry, ajc, "Young rallies Hawks to playoff berth, 120-116 over Wizards," 13 May 2021 In her May thriller, aptly titled The Plot, a creative-writing instructor named Jake writes a novel that revives his stale writing career. Annabel Gutterman, Time, "Three New Books Find Drama in the Scandals and Controversies of the Publishing World," 12 May 2021 Chiale’s massive stack of early work earned him his first gallery opening, thus launching his career as an artist. Ryan Mccarthy, Rolling Stone, "Artist Jimmy Chiale Talks Working Fast, Projecting Confidence, and Designing a Racecar for the Vuse Design Challenge," 12 May 2021 Her career had defined her firmly as an old-school conservative GOP figure, advocating for tax cuts and an assertive U.S. presence abroad. Alan Fram, Anchorage Daily News, "On House floor, an embattled Liz Cheney says Trump and his GOP supporters threaten democracy," 12 May 2021 Gasol, who is finishing his playing career in Europe, talked about the two sides of Bryant as a teammate. Los Angeles Times Staff, Los Angeles Times, "Video: Pau Gasol talks about Kobe Bryant and their friendship," 12 May 2021 All-Star left Los Angeles after playing her entire 13-year career with the Sparks, who drafted her in 2008. Doug Feinberg,, "The WNBA’s 25th season tips off Friday with plenty of changes — including Candace Parker joining the Chicago Sky, her hometown team. Here’s what to expect.," 12 May 2021 During her career, Mrs. Kaye had an eye and affection for the unusual., "Myrna Kaye, astute writer and ‘savvy sleuth’ in the antiques world, dies at 90," 12 May 2021 The most expensive cases Dr. Charles Goldstein, a former emergency medicine physician at John C. Lincoln Medical Center, watched police officers drop off people with serious mental illness at his emergency room over his 40-year career. Jessica Boehm, The Arizona Republic, "'Housing is health care': It's 30% cheaper to provide housing to people with mental illness," 12 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb These golden statues can be tickets to career stability, creative freedom, or just a plain-old deserved celebration, but when they are rarely afforded to Black artists, the system becomes even more rigged against them. Kathleen Newman-bremang,, "It’s Time We Start Refusing To Meet The Oscars In The Middle," 27 Apr. 2021 Kinney began her Heights Libraries career 15 years ago when Gray hired her as a page. cleveland, "Patricia Gray retiring as Coventry Library manager: Press Run," 19 Feb. 2021 There were 27 other collegiate or career best efforts from the Tigers in the South Carolina Invitational on Saturday. Giana Han, al, "Weekly Auburn roundup: Track and field and gymnastics teams break season, collegiate and career records," 8 Feb. 2021 Each department and agency appoints career people who act as a bridge between the incoming and outgoing administration. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune, "A former Utah governor wrote the blueprint for presidential transitions. Here’s how it should work.," 27 Nov. 2020 Watch for Cam Newton to try and start his Patriots career off right while Tua Tagovailoa will look to get his first bit of action if Ryan Fitzpatrick fails to deliver off the bat. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, "NFL Week 1 preview: Chiefs and Texans kick things off to start the season," 10 Sep. 2020 The aim is to expose students from all backgrounds to career opportunities in journalism. George Stanley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Stanley: We can recruit the best journalists while also keeping our commitment to represent the community. Here's how.," 6 Sep. 2020 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

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

15 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Career.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for career



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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