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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for experience

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun And rookie N’Keal Harry just doesn’t have enough experience yet to demand that opponents game-plan around him. BostonGlobe.com, "It’s going to be tricky for the Patriots to reclaim that top seed - The Boston Globe," 3 Dec. 2019 Kiffin has previous coaching experience in the SEC. Khobi Price, sun-sentinel.com, "FAU coach Lane Kiffin won’t address coaching rumors with team," 3 Dec. 2019 Those young QBs are great, but Wilson’s experience in this time of year is priceless. Andy Nesbitt, For The Win, "The Seattle Seahawks are becoming a big problem at just the right time," 3 Dec. 2019 Solange's live experiences can be better described as performance art than concerts. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Solange Blessed 'Jimmy Fallon' with a Nine-Minute Set of Performance Art," 3 Dec. 2019 Since the launch of Tinder in 2012, a range of apps have promised to make online dating even easier, less time-consuming, or a more pleasant experience. Brianna Holt, Quartzy, "What’s next for dating apps after swiping runs its course? The League has a suggestion," 2 Dec. 2019 Coaches and students who have experience in robotics teams came to the board meeting to speak in favor of more teams in more schools. Catalina Righter, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Carroll County school system wants to put a robotics team in every school," 1 Dec. 2019 But Coyne had more experience traversing the crowd in a giant hamster ball and dodging dancers in animal costumes than calibrating his performances there for home audio. John Wenzel, The Know, "The Flaming Lips’ new album with the Colorado Symphony is a stocking-stuffer straight from Red Rocks," 28 Nov. 2019 And of course most of us aren’t chefs and don’t have commercial food prep experience. NBC News, "Are you making these 8 holiday cooking mistakes?," 28 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb And much of the Midwest experienced strong winds and snow at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, causing hundreds of flight cancellations and making deliveries difficult. Washington Post, "Amazon says delivery times back to normal after delays," 6 Dec. 2019 USA TODAY Eilish, 17, experienced the wrath of Gaga's devoted fan base after the breakout star voiced her disapproval of Gaga's iconic meat dress from the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY, "Vegan Billie Eilish gets seared for shading Lady Gaga's iconic meat dress," 6 Dec. 2019 Perhaps our universe experienced a brief and sudden burst of expansion, or underwent a dramatic phase transition at some point during its first second. Dan Hooper, Time, "Will We Ever Find Dark Matter in the Universe?," 6 Dec. 2019 Space Center Galaxy Lights Guests will experience LED lights, 3D projections and interactive displays lighting up the museum and some of the rarest space artifacts in the world. Houston Chronicle, "Family Fun: Holiday events, Slime Rodeo," 5 Dec. 2019 Tens of millions of Americans will experience PTSD, which can lead to intrusive thoughts, nightmares, depression and other symptoms, according to USPS. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "United States Postal Service releases new stamp benefiting veterans with PTSD," 5 Dec. 2019 Some women will also experience miscarriage symptoms, such as bleeding, cramping, and pelvic pain. Leah Groth, Health.com, "Teen Mom Star Taylor Selfridge Loses Baby to 'Vanishing Twin Syndrome.' Here's What That Means," 3 Dec. 2019 Now, people experience that same rush of emotion, helplessness, then action, after upsetting news stories. Alison Bowen, chicagotribune.com, "Making a donation for #GivingTuesday out of rage? You’re not alone.," 3 Dec. 2019 After Dangerfield came up huge with 23 points in UConn’s 11-point victory over Ohio State on Nov. 24, the senior experienced back spasms and sat out when the Huskies took on Dayton two days later. Alexa Philippou, courant.com, "Crystal Dangerfield still dealing with back issues; Geno attributes short rotation to recruiting misfires, and more," 3 Dec. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about experience

Time Traveler for experience

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for experience

Last Updated

8 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Experience.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/experience?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=e&file=experi01. Accessed 9 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on experience

What made you want to look up experience? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


contradictory or incongruous words

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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!