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

Since National Geographic’s earliest days, our explorers have gone to great lengths to discover the unknown, immerse themselves in extraordinary places, encounter new cultures, and investigate nature firsthand. National Geographic, "About Us," 10 Sep. 2019 The novel follows a group of kids with special talents who encounter unimaginable evils — and find their lives put in serious danger. David Canfield, EW.com, "Stephen King's The Institute is out now. Read this juicy excerpt first," 10 Sep. 2019 Manny Margot and Javier Guerra – would trump anything else the Padres would encounter. BostonGlobe.com, "To confront new challenges, the Red Sox sought new leadership," 10 Sep. 2019 Evil Sits Down for a Moment (Season 2) While shopping for new furniture with Die Fledermaus, The Tick and Arthur encounter a villainess who calls herself the Ottoman. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Ars celebrates 25 years of The Tick by picking our top ten favorite episodes," 10 Sep. 2019 Anyone encountering the 23-year-old should call 911 and not approach him, according to the alert. Alice Yin, chicagotribune.com, "Arrest warrant issued for man, 23, wanted in connection to fatal shooting in West Humboldt Park," 7 Sep. 2019 Arriving officers encountered a violent scene and moved to save the woman’s life. Christine Dempsey, courant.com, "East Hartford neighborhood shattered by domestic violence, deadly police shooting," 6 Sep. 2019 Law enforcement officers that encounter publicly intoxicated people are required to leave them in the care of a responsible adult. Tracy Maness, Houston Chronicle, "Houston Recovery Center offers different kind of help," 6 Sep. 2019 In 2000, Zimbabwe’s economic growth had slowed substantially, and Mugabe encountered growing political opposition. Aryn Baker, Time, "Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean Revolutionary Who Later Ruled With an Iron Fist, Dies at 95," 6 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Leverkusen were similarly free-flowing in their opening two Bundesliga encounters, putting three past both Paderborn and Fortuna Dusseldorf to leave them with a 100% record. SI.com, "Dortmund vs Leverkusen Preview: Where to Watch, Buy Tickets, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News," 11 Sep. 2019 Students will participate in a variety of learning activities, including planting native plants, having animal encounters, doing scientific experiments and taking trail hikes. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Living Coast Discovery Center wins nearly $86K in grant funding," 10 Sep. 2019 Tourists coming from San Francisco first encounter Mount Veeder in the forested Mayacamas Range to their left, eventually followed by the Spring Mountain and Diamond Mountain districts. Fortune, "Napa Mountain Wines Have Just as Much to Offer as Napa Valley Bottles," 8 Sep. 2019 Trans people can suddenly pass through airport security, checkout lines and job interviews without awkward encounters, including questions about their genitalia. Dan Stahl, NBC News, "Making a name for yourself: For trans people, it's 'life-changing'," 6 Sep. 2019 In 2015 and 2016, UK newspaper The Guardian combined its original reporting with crowdsourced information to record all fatal encounters with the police in the United States, and found around 1,100 civilian deaths per year. Lynne Peeples, Scientific American, "What the Data Say about Police Shootings," 5 Sep. 2019 That encounter, while heated, didn’t result in a physical altercation. Washington Post, "Trial starts in case of fatal shooting over parking spot," 21 Aug. 2019 While history has not recorded the circumstances surrounding this encounter, the remnants of these Cretaceous species, interlocked in combat, became entombed under a pile of sandstone. Jeremy P. Jacobs, Science | AAAS, "Are dinosaur fossils ‘minerals’? The Montana Supreme Court will decide high stakes case," 10 July 2019 There were more chance encounters, this time with movie producers. Colette Aboussouan, Allure, "Indigenous Actress Kota Eberhardt on How to Embrace Your Path," 20 June 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

13 Sep 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).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


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!