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


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.


she careered off to the class she'd almost forgotten
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

How has the Pyramid of Success come into play throughout your acting career? Ashley Lee, Los Angeles Times, "Q&A: Beau Bridges channels his former basketball coach, UCLA legend John Wooden," 16 Sep. 2019 While Roethlisberger has missed several games due to injuries throughout his 16-year career (but never the bulk of an entire season), Brees has been Mr. Durability. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Roethlisberger, Brees injuries shake up NFL playoff races, force hard look at the future," 16 Sep. 2019 Further Reading First Man is a first-rate movie about America’s most revered astronaut Another X-15 pilot, Joe Engle, also went on to a remarkable career at NASA. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "What it was like to fly the baddest airplane the world has ever known," 16 Sep. 2019 Gordon, for his part, enjoyed a thirty-plus-year career at Yeshiva. Linda Stasi, Harper's magazine, "Secrets and Lies," 16 Sep. 2019 Psychologist John Gottman of New York City’s The Gottman Institute has made a career researching why some couples remain together. Author: Wayne And Wanda, Anchorage Daily News, "My girlfriend keeps dragging me to boring events. How can I get out of them with my relationship intact?," 14 Sep. 2019 Bebe Winans’ music has inspired and comforted millions throughout his career. Keyaira Boone, Essence, "Bebe Winans Says Remaking Luther Vandross’ ‘Power of Love’ Was ‘Therapeutic’ For Him," 13 Sep. 2019 The grown Theo finds a career selling antiques, partnering with a dealer, Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), whose ties to the lad also go back to the museum bombing. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'The Goldfinch' paints dull picture from prize-winning book," 13 Sep. 2019 Cribbs also excelled on Browns coverage units throughout his career. Dan Labbe,, "Former Browns returner Josh Cribbs among players nominated for Pro Football Hall of Fame for first time," 12 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

They are appointed by the administration currently in power, as opposed to career government employees, who remain as administrations come and go. Peter Baker, New York Times, "Trump Pressed Top Aide to Have Weather Service ‘Clarify’ Forecast That Contradicted Trump," 11 Sep. 2019 Your personal salability and attractiveness also extend to career, so this is also a good time for job interviews or to make new business contacts. Tribune Content Agency,, "Horoscope for Aug. 26, 2019: Cancer, be a sudden ray of sunshine; Aquarius, focus on clear communication," 26 Aug. 2019 As touch-screen phones careered toward ubiquity, and as desktop interfaces and website design and mobile operating systems huddled together around a crude and adapting set of visual metaphors, the badge was ascendant. John Herrman, New York Times, "How Tiny Red Dots Took Over Your Life," 27 Feb. 2018 Her groundstrokes careered wide or carried repeatedly long. Kurt Streeter, New York Times, "Wimbledon 2019: Serena Williams Escapes; Angelique Kerber Doesn’t," 4 July 2019 In a Facebook post shared the day after the crash, Smith wrote that her car started hydroplaning before careering off the road between two trees and flipping three times. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "A teenager didn’t come home. An iPhone app led her mother to a ravine.," 17 June 2019 The ball careered into the hand of Liverpool defender Ragnar Klavan. Rory Smith, New York Times, "Champions League: Liverpool Ousts Roma in Loss That Doubles as a Triumph," 2 May 2018 Later that month, a van careered into a crowd near a London mosque, and one man died. Joanna Sugden, WSJ, "Car Crashes Outside U.K. Parliament in Suspected Terror Attack," 14 Aug. 2018 Sputnik Chic With the United States and Russia expelling diplomats, many people worry that the countries are careering toward another Cold War. New York Times, "Trends in Design and Home Furnishings," 8 May 2018

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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Last Updated

14 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for career

The first known use of career was circa 1534

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on career

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with career

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for career

Spanish Central: Translation of career

Nglish: Translation of career for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of career for Arabic Speakers

Comments on career

What made you want to look up career? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to fake an opponent out of position

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