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

chops, expertise, know-how, moxie, proficiency, savvy, skills

Synonyms: Verb

endure, feel, have, know, pass, see, suffer, sustain, taste, undergo, witness

Antonyms: Noun


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Examples of experience in a Sentence


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.


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

Like her, the newish vice-president, Luis de Guindos, is a former minister without monetary-policy experience. The Economist, "The tasks facing Europe’s top team," 6 July 2019 Miller studied stress in mice and in Dutch military veterans who had served in Afghanistan conflict zones to better understand why only a subset of those who endure traumatic experiences develop PTSD. Cindy Krischer Goodman, sun-sentinel.com, "Holiday fireworks can be a terrible trigger for those with PTSD," 4 July 2019 But based on Daan Hermsen’s experience, the growth of Tesla Direct could play a role in helping the company maintain momentum. Dana Hull, latimes.com, "Elon Musk’s driveway car deliveries could be key to maintaining Tesla's momentum," 4 July 2019 The Americans have advanced to play the Netherlands in Sunday's final because of depth and desire, experience and expertise. Steven Goff, baltimoresun.com, "At left back, Crystal Dunn is getting it right for USWNT at World Cup," 4 July 2019 People with radically different histories and experiences at least see one another, try to eavesdrop on each other’s conversations and eat the same food. Greg Jefferson, ExpressNews.com, "Pondering what makes Jim’s Jim’s," 4 July 2019 MyndVR’s sweet spot is giving virtual experiences to seniors of any level of cognitive ability. Kara Carlson, Dallas News, "Why a Dallas VR company thinks its tech can help aging adults unlock memories," 3 July 2019 Although Mumbai experiences monsoon season every year, rain on Monday and Tuesday was the heaviest in more than a decade. Sugam Pokharel And Julia Hollingsworth, CNN, "Maharashtra storm: 43 dead as Indian state pummeled by heavy monsoon rains," 3 July 2019 Your boss’s motives are to provide a more positive professional experience. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "Tired mom wants to skip teen years," 3 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Not all the people experienced symptoms associated with CTE, at least according to their medical records. Sabine Galvis, Science | AAAS, "Even if you don’t play contact sports, you could develop signs of traumatic brain injury," 3 July 2019 As a result, only customers whose regular residential cart collection day is on Thursday or Friday will experience a one-day delay in service. Ramona Sentinel, "News Briefs: Holiday closures, blood drive," 3 July 2019 Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp experienced a multi-hour outage in March. Leada Gore | Lgore@al.com, al.com, "Facebook, Instagram down: Outages, issues with photos reported," 3 July 2019 The company recently experienced a jolt of growth, tacking $20 billion onto their market cap in the past six months alone. Brittany Meiling, San Diego Union-Tribune, "How $52B software giant ServiceNow is seeding San Diego’s startup scene," 3 July 2019 Flying to an altitude of six miles upward, the crew module experienced high-stress aerodynamic conditions like those the craft will face when leaving the Earth's atmosphere. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "NASA Successfully Tests Orion Ejection System," 3 July 2019 Along the path of the moon’s shadow, viewers experience a sudden daytime darkness known as totality. Michael Waters, Smithsonian, "Photos Capture the Great South American Eclipse," 2 July 2019 Without these protections in place, Verizon's other customers worldwide, including Cloudflare, experienced outages and failures. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "The Infrastructure Mess Causing Countless Internet Outages," 28 June 2019 California experiences an average of one magnitude 3 quake almost daily, with 26 in the last 30 days alone. Gina Martinez, Time, "1,060 Earthquakes Have Hit Southern California in a Month and Hardly Anyone Noticed. Here's Why," 26 June 2019

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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Statistics for experience

Last Updated

7 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for experience

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

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More Definitions for experience



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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Comments on experience

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