ex·​pe·​ri·​ence | \ ik-ˈspir-ē-ən(t)s How to pronounce experience (audio) \

Definition of experience

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge
b : the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation
2a : practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of or participation in events or in a particular activity
b : the length of such participation has 10 years' experience in the job
3 : something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through
4a : the conscious events that make up an individual life
b : the events that make up the conscious past of a community or nation or humankind generally
5 : the act or process of directly perceiving events or reality


experienced; experiencing

Definition of experience (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to have experience of : undergo experienced severe hardships as a child
2 : to learn by experience (see experience entry 1) I have experienced that a landscape and the sky unfold the deepest beauty— Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Synonyms & Antonyms for experience

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

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Examples of experience in a Sentence

Noun Human experience is the ultimate source and justification for all knowledge. Experience itself has accumulated in human memory and culture, gradually producing the methods of intelligence called "reason" and "science." — John Shook, Free Inquiry, April/May 2008 Almost as charismatic as the ivory-bill, the California condor passed through a near-death experience and is today regaining a tentative foothold in parts of its erstwhile range. — John Terborgh, New York Review of Books, 26 Apr. 2007 Many of his students have plenty of life experience but … never mastered the academic stuff at school. — Daryl Crimp, New Zealand Geographic, March/April 2007 In the energetic, speculative, socially mobile urban society of the early 18th century, maternal impression, the idea that a child's appearance was directed by the mother's experiences, found advocates among London physicians as easily as it did among myth-fed country fold. — Miranda Seymour, New York Times Book Review, 17 June 2007 Literary London was not merely a great gathering of experiences for [Samuel] Johnson, but a veritable public stew of good words. — Andrew O'Hagan, New York Review, 27 Apr. 2006 The best way to learn is by experience. We need someone with experience. She gained a lot of experience at that job. I know that from personal experience. She has five years' experience as a computer programmer. He wrote about his experiences as a pilot. That experience is one I'd rather forget! She had a frightening experience. Verb Performing a risk-reward analysis can often clarify decisions. If the risk of a failed marriage is that you may have to experience heartache and an expensive divorce, you'd better think carefully. If the risk of a bad ski run is that you'll die, you'd better think even more carefully about what you'll gain by taking that risk. — Laurence Gonzales, National Geographic Adventure, March 2008 Of course, many reporters do their best to be accurate, but they must conform to the conventions of their craft, and there is always slippage between their choice of words and the nature of an event as experienced or perceived by others. — Robert Darnton, New York Review of Books, 12 June 2008 I spent 20-some years as a foreign correspondent and experienced my share of harrowing travel.  … And unlike the brave foreign correspondents that you see on TV or read about …  , I was scared silly. — P. J. O'Rourke, Forbes Life, June 2008 That was one of the worst days I've ever experienced. The patient has been experiencing pain in her left shoulder.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Minor has no formal kitchen training and, until a couple of years ago, no professional cooking experience. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "'I've been blessed': How a Phoenix chef went from jobless to instant soul food success," 23 June 2020 African Americans and women are paid significantly less than white men, regardless of their experience, education, and overall productivity. Karen Ho, Quartz, "Salary history bans are actually helping women and Black people," 22 June 2020 With 27 years of sideline experience, new Summer Creek High School girls’ soccer coach Chris McComb hopes to draw from those years of wisdom to build a powerhouse program with the Lady Bulldogs and the change is already underway. David Taylor, Houston Chronicle, "Summer Creek Bulldogs new lady’s soccer coach brings wealth of experience," 20 June 2020 Over decades, the state has worked to make voting an easier, more user-friendly experience. John Wildermuth, SFChronicle.com, "California’s elections boss: State’s voting changes are model for the country," 19 June 2020 This experience as a wary beneficiary of affirmative action echoes in Justice Thomas’s dissent from a 2003 ruling, upholding the University of Michigan law school’s race-conscious admissions policy. The Economist, "Radical justice Will Clarence Thomas stick it out for a 30th year on the court?," 27 June 2020 People who attended Microsoft Build describe a Twitch-like user experience, where developers could drop in on virtual coding sessions at all hours and catch a live session of a Microsoft program manager showing off their home setup. Lauren Goode, Wired, "Virtual Conferences Mean All-Access—Except When They Don't," 27 June 2020 Certain areas of the country experience a dramatic drop in degrees. Lindsay Tigar, CNN Underscored, "Everything you need to go on the safest road trip possible," 26 June 2020 Being at the protests has been a surreal, almost out-of-body experience. Savannah Eadens, The Courier-Journal, "Black queer pride: LGBTQ Kentuckians at the forefront of Black Lives Matter movement," 25 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb At some facilities that did not experience outbreaks, leaders have been waiting for weeks to lift restrictions and seized the opportunity to do so when Northam issued his reopening guidance. Washington Post, "Virginia nursing homes walk tightrope," 28 June 2020 Coughing, sneezing and breathing can produce droplets capable of transmitting the coronavirus and people who do not experience symptoms can still be infected and transmit the virus. Matt Kawahara, SFChronicle.com, "Woman suspected of coughing on baby in Yogurtland a San Jose school district employee," 25 June 2020 Those of us who experience white privilege in the United States don’t typically encounter these sights. Laura Weiss, The New Republic, "How America Exports Police Violence Around the World," 25 June 2020 Siberia tends to experience large swings in temperature month-to-month and year-to-year, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), a program affiliated with the European Commission. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "Temperatures in an Arctic Siberian town hit 100 degrees, a new high," 22 June 2020 Visiting fans traveled more than usual, not just for the game, but the to experience the cultural differences of game day in the Big Ten vs. SEC. Michael Casagrande | Mcasagrande@al.com, al, "Ranking the 11 Alabama home-and-home series of the future," 18 June 2020 Trudeau and the couple's children didn't experience any symptoms of the disease and the prime minister isolated himself for two weeks. Fox News, "Ukrainian president's wife hospitalized after testing positive for coronavirus," 16 June 2020 Here’s the best way to experience the ‘Field of Light’ in Paso Robles Come for the wine. Los Angeles Times, "‘Field of Light’s’ solar-powered light show in Paso Robles reopening," 5 June 2020 Still, team members get to experience the continent and its wildlife in a way few can. Madison Flager, Condé Nast Traveler, "My Five Months Working at a Post Office in Antarctica," 5 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'experience.' 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 experience


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


1580, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for experience


Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin experientia "testing of possibilities, participation in events, skill gained by practice," noun derivative of experient-, experiens, present participle of experīrī "to put to the test, attempt, have experience of, undergo," from ex- ex- entry 1 + -perīrī, from a presumed verbal base *per- "test, risk," perhaps going back to Indo-European *pr̥h3-i-

Note: See note at peril entry 1.


verbal derivative of experience entry 1

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Time Traveler for experience

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for experience

Last Updated

30 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Experience.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/experience. Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for experience


How to pronounce experience (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of experience

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the process of doing and seeing things and of having things happen to you
: skill or knowledge that you get by doing something
: the length of time that you have spent doing something (such as a particular job)



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

: to do or see (something) or have (something) happen to you : to feel or be affected by (something)


ex·​pe·​ri·​ence | \ ik-ˈspir-ē-əns How to pronounce experience (audio) \

Kids Definition of experience

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the process of living through an event or events You learn by experience.
2 : the skill or knowledge gained by actually doing a thing The job requires someone with experience.
3 : something that someone has actually done or lived through She told us about her experience flying a plane.


experienced; experiencing

Kids Definition of experience (Entry 2 of 2)

: to undergo or live through : have experience of

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