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 But the experience will be much different compared with before the pandemic. Adrienne Roberts, Detroit Free Press, "Analysts: Detroit casinos may be reopening, but restrictions will drain city revenue," 1 Aug. 2020 While Phoenix will mostly likely fail to make the playoffs, this experience is more about their future than present. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, "With playoffs a longshot, Suns can build for future in NBA restart," 31 July 2020 The approval surprised many, including fans in Louisville and around the country who already decided the experience won't be worth the expense and have asked for refunds. Grace Schneider, The Courier-Journal, "Churchill Downs lost $149 million by delaying the 146th Kentucky Derby during pandemic," 30 July 2020 Being on a show like this, that is not just so great but just so popular, this whole experience is a new thing for me. Derek Lawrence, EW.com, "Ozark stars Laura Linney and Tom Pelphrey on Wendy and Ben's 'great tragedy': 'I was just crying'," 13 July 2020 But trying to do both ensures neither experience is good. Sid Sijbrandij, Wired, "Hybrid Remote Work Offers the Worst of Both Worlds," 12 July 2020 Do your homework: When on auction sites like eBay, always check the seller’s star rating and read comments before buying a product to see what the experience was like for previous customers. Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY, "Shopping more online? Take heed to these 7 simple safety tips," 12 July 2020 First-hand experience is the best way to understand what condo residents love about living in a high-rise. Valerie Sweeten, Houston Chronicle, "Condo Life: Why condo residents love their homes," 11 July 2020 The experience has been a wake-up call for administrators planning to open schools for in-person learning after summer break. ... Tawnell D. Hobbs, WSJ, "Coronavirus Outbreaks in Summer Sports Shape School Reopen Plans," 9 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Popovich also noted in his pregame Zoom media session that Hispanics, like Blacks, experience a level of anxiety when interacting with the police that whites cannot understand. Tom Orsborn, ExpressNews.com, "Hispanics also victims of systematic racism, Popovich says," 3 Aug. 2020 Through commercial companies like the Zero Gravity Corporation, anyone who can spare the cost of a ticket can experience weightlessness — and anyone who’s planning on making a trip to space should definitely give it a go. Stefanie Waldek, Travel + Leisure, "13 Things Space Tourists Should Know Before Traveling to Space, According to Astronauts," 2 Aug. 2020 Many states that face spikes in coronavirus cases would experience the largest percentage reduction in benefits, including Florida (47.1%), California (44.2%) and Mississippi (50.5%). Jessica Menton, USA TODAY, "'Insulin or groceries': How reduced unemployment affects struggling Americans from California to Mississippi," 2 Aug. 2020 In addition to heavy rain, parts of the region could also experience gusty winds over 30 mph on Tuesday, especially east of Interstate 95, if the storm center tracks near the bay or over the Delmarva. Jason Samenow, Washington Post, "Isaias may dump heavy rain on D.C. region Monday and Tuesday," 1 Aug. 2020 Montgomery County will experience 31 flu deaths in a typical year. Ramsey Archibald | Rarchibald@al.com, al, "Coronavirus deaths already well past average annual flu deaths in Alabama," 31 July 2020 The pilgrimage is a journey that Muslims traditionally experience with relatives. BostonGlobe.com, "Coronavirus not waiting until fall for comeback," 30 July 2020 For example, in the U.S., parts of Miami now experience floods on a monthly basis, during high tides made higher by climate disruption. Irina Ivanova, CBS News, "Sea level rise could destroy 20% of the world's GDP by 2100," 30 July 2020 Many people with fibroids have no symptoms, but others experience pelvic pain, anemia, miscarriages, infertility, and heavy bleeding. Natalie Gontcharova, refinery29.com, "Exclusive: Kamala Harris Introduces Bill On Uterine Fibroids," 30 July 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

5 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

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