en·​coun·​ter | \ in-ˈkau̇n-tər How to pronounce encounter (audio) , en-\
encountered; encountering\ in-​ˈkau̇n-​t(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce encountering (audio) , en-​ \

Definition of encounter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to meet as an adversary or enemy
b : to engage in conflict with
2 : to come upon face-to-face
3 : to come upon or experience especially unexpectedly encounter difficulties

intransitive verb

: to meet especially by chance



Definition of encounter (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a meeting between hostile factions or persons : a sudden often violent clash an encounter between the police and demonstrators
2a : a chance meeting an accidental encounter
b : a particular kind of meeting or experience with another person a romantic encounter
3 : a coming into the vicinity of a celestial body the Martian encounter of a spacecraft

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of encounter in a Sentence


We encountered problems early in the project. The pilot told us that we might encounter turbulence during the flight. Her suggestion has encountered a lot of opposition.


a chance encounter with a famous writer He's accused of having had sexual encounters with several young women. There was a violent encounter between fans of the opposing teams. It was her first encounter with cigarettes.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

This actually happens often in children who first encounter a herpes simplex or varicella zoster virus somewhere like the playground. Kasandra Brabaw, SELF, "So, You Got Semen in Your Eye. Here's What to Do," 1 Mar. 2019 In a haunting novella based on a memoir by Amasa Delano, a Massachusetts ship captain who had encountered a Spanish slave ship, Herman Melville—almost alone among classic white writers before the Civil War—confronted the horror of slavery. Andrew Delbanco, WSJ, "Five Best: Andrew Delbanco on Books on Slavery and the Coming of the Civil War," 30 Nov. 2018 There are items for men and women, for design obsessives, and for those who have never encountered the Scotsman, whose heyday was a century ago. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson Is Obsessed With Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Soon You Will Be Too," 12 Nov. 2018 For those who are less-than-familiar with children's literature these days, The Gruffalo, is a wildly popular book series (and now film) about a mouse who encounters several creatures while walking through the woods, including the titular beast. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Prince William Just Revealed Prince George and Princess Charlotte's Favorite Book—and Its a Modern British Classic," 11 Sep. 2018 The letter aims to identify for Mueller what the lawyers believe are grievous errors both in how Comey handled the Clinton investigation and in his early, and limited, encounters with the president. Eric Tucker And Chad Day, chicagotribune.com, "Trump lawyers call Comey 'Machiavellian' in confidential memo to Mueller," 7 July 2018 Any Muslim who encountered him was ordered to kill him. NBC News, "He spied on al Qaeda from the inside, until he had to run for his life," 17 June 2018 Kneale depicts the city as its various attackers encountered it: Gauls, arriving naked on horseback, found a nearly rural settlement; the Visigoths, invading eight centuries later, laid waste to unimaginable architectural marvels. George Packer, The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 16 June 2018 Animals often go out of their way to avoid encountering us. Kaitlyn Gaynor, CNN, "To avoid humans, more wildlife now work the night shift," 14 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Royals, avoiding awkward encounters like the rest of us. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Prince Harry Dodged Awkward Run-Ins With Two Exes at the 'Our Planet' Premiere in London," 6 Apr. 2019 The bribery indictment that this week swept up the chairman of North Carolina’s Republican Party and an insurance tycoon who is the state’s largest political donor was sparked by a chance encounter at a gathering of state and federal officials. Mark Maremont, WSJ, "How Official’s Undercover Role Led to Charges Against Billionaire," 4 Apr. 2019 Some fans also speculated about the reason behind Jon and Arya's encounter. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Game of Thrones Fans Have a Heartwarming Theory Behind Jon Snow and Arya Stark's Reunion in the New Promo," 2 Apr. 2019 So, the North Korean diplomat, didn’t respond to written questions from The Associated Press and declined to talk to reporters during a recent encounter outside the Madrid embassy. Aritz Parra, The Seattle Times, "Spain: FBI offered data stolen in North Korean Embassy raid," 27 Mar. 2019 The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of action — sick-outs, strikes, viral face-to-face encounters with senators, and widespread national media attention on the youth movement to address climate change. Isha Tobis Clarke, Teen Vogue, "What the Youth Climate Strike Felt Like as a Woman of Color," 19 Mar. 2019 After a chance encounter abroad, romantic dreamer Rosso follows lawyer Chloe to the United States. Liz Cantrell, Town & Country, "The Five Books Everyone Will Be Talking About in September," 5 Sep. 2018 Mattis made his comments in response to questions from reporters during an encounter on the steps of the Pentagon. Robert Burns, Fox News, "Mattis dismissive of news reports of tension with Trump," 18 Sep. 2018 From mortifying hookups to uncomfy public encounters, keep reading for ~cringy~ stories that actually happened. 1. Seventeen Editors, Seventeen, "23 Juicy Spring Break Confessions That Actually Happened," 5 Feb. 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of encounter


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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for encounter


Middle English encountren, from Anglo-French encuntrer, from Medieval Latin incontrare, from Late Latin incontra toward, from Latin in- + contra against — more at counter

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about encounter

Statistics for encounter

Last Updated

12 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for encounter

The first known use of encounter was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for encounter



English Language Learners Definition of encounter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to have or experience (problems, difficulties, etc.)
formal : to meet (someone) without expecting or intending to



English Language Learners Definition of encounter (Entry 2 of 2)

: a meeting that is not planned or expected
: a usually brief experience with another person
: a violent or very unfriendly meeting


en·​coun·​ter | \ in-ˈkau̇n-tər How to pronounce encounter (audio) \
encountered; encountering

Kids Definition of encounter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to meet face-to-face or by chance I encountered an old friend.
2 : to experience or face often unexpectedly Have you encountered any difficulty?



Kids Definition of encounter (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a meeting face-to-face and often by chance
2 : an often unexpected experience It was his first encounter with fame.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on encounter

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


having no equal

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!