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 The new safari journey will offer a contact-free experience, and that means none with humans, either: all safari tickets must be purchased online and in advance. Curtis Tate, USA TODAY, "What’s the future for Disney, Universal and other theme parks around the US?," 22 May 2020 The condition, which the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, often appears weeks after infection in children who did not experience first-phase virus symptoms. New York Times, "Coronavirus in N.Y.C.: Latest Updates," 22 May 2020 Ireland’s experience, however, illustrates only part of the pandemic’s counterintuitive leadership story, in which political strength appears to offer no obvious guide to national performance. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, "Ireland Puts Its Anthony Fauci Front and Center," 22 May 2020 Whereas some fears are innate—such as humans’ fear of spiders or snakes or a ground squirrel’s fear of foxes—others are learned, either through direct experience or observing others. Jason G. Goldman, Scientific American, "How the Coronavirus Has Changed Animals’ Landscape of Fear," 21 May 2020 But Pinal County spokesman James Daniels said the testing blitz has not been a positive experience for the county. Alison Steinbach, azcentral, "Arizona's 4th 'testing blitz' scheduled for Saturday in at least 4 counties," 21 May 2020 Romney's experience with vote by mail has been positive, but many other Republicans have sided with Trump in questioning the security of mail-in ballots. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "'I'll bet 90% of us vote by mail': Mitt Romney jabs Trump over mail-in voting concerns by touting Utah statistics," 21 May 2020 Walk-through experiences at the Canadian location have been temporarily put on hold until July. Andrea Romano, Travel + Leisure, "You Can Drive Through a Van Gogh Painting at This Magical Art Exhibit in Canada," 21 May 2020 Rather, La Motta’s character isn’t diagnosed or traced to specific personal experiences or explained by aspects of backstory. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "Revisiting the Violence and Style of Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull”," 21 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Britain’s economy looks set to experience an unprecedentedly rapid and deep recession. The Economist, "Not so burdensome As debt soars, the cost of servicing it keeps falling," 23 May 2020 Chosen participants will be asked to live together in Moscow, Russia, and expect to experience conditions similar that a space crew for future missions to Mars and the moon would endure. Andrea Romano, Travel + Leisure, "NASA Is Actually Hiring People to Quarantine in Study for Upcoming Mars Mission," 22 May 2020 But innovators are also looking toward the drive-in model as a way to experience live events now that people can no longer stand elbow to elbow. Stephen Humphries, The Christian Science Monitor, "Pandemic, in park: Viewers pull up to drive-ins again," 21 May 2020 So why are heart attack patients less likely to experience poor outcomes? Karen Pallarito, Health.com, "One in 10 People With Any of These 3 Serious Conditions Will Be Misdiagnosed, a New Study Says—Here's Why," 21 May 2020 In the era of the new coronavirus and social distancing, in-person entertainment has adapted to be experienced from inside your car at a drive-in. Kimi Robinson, azcentral, "Here's the latest drive-in entertainment in Phoenix: The Ladies parking-lot comedy shows," 21 May 2020 People who are receiving unemployment benefits under the pandemic unemployment assistance in Arizona are experiencing difficulties filing their weekly claims for the week ending on May 16. Arizona Republic, "Some PUA applicants unable to file weekly claims for last week, DES says will not affect benefits," 19 May 2020 Likewise, the county continues to experience shortages of personal protective equipment, said Chris Voss, director of the county’s office of emergency management. oregonlive, "Coronavirus in Oregon: ‘The truth is, Multnomah County is not ready to reopen.’," 14 May 2020 In fact, her family members loved getting to tell her good news about weddings and pregnancies multiple times and to experience her genuine response over and over again. Kaitlin Lange, Indianapolis Star, "'People gravitated to her': Patty Connor, who died of coronavirus, loved celebrations," 13 May 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

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Experience.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/experience. Accessed 3 Jun. 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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