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

The book’s protagonist, Maggie Deloach, faces the consequences of supporting integration in a story loosely based on her own experience at Auburn. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "Anne Rivers Siddons, Quintessential Southern Author, Has Died," 12 Sep. 2019 The French team benefitted from prior international experience. Sean Gregory, Time, "Team USA Basketball Lost to France — Yes, France. But it's Not Time to Panic Yet," 11 Sep. 2019 To limit questionable citation practices, Waltman says, the Italian evaluation system should exclude self-citations and consider factors such as a researcher’s experience and activities in addition to citation counts. Giorgia Guglielmi, Science | AAAS, "Clubby and ‘disturbing’ citation behavior by researchers in Italy has surged," 11 Sep. 2019 One image, in particular, waxes with meaning even as its subject — a man playing a tuba at a 1956 political rally — seems increasingly remote from contemporary experience. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, "Robert Frank’s photographs captured the bleak reality we’re still living in today," 10 Sep. 2019 Dille’s recognition of those complications comes, in part, from personal experience: Her daughter has bipolar disorder. oregonlive, "Child or teen needs mental health treatment? In Portland area, they face agonizing waits," 10 Sep. 2019 This plan uses my experience and unique capability to root out failures within the justice system. Breanna Edwards, Essence, "Kamala Harris Releases Plan To Overhaul Criminal Justice System," 9 Sep. 2019 Although we are disappointed (to say the least), we are also warmed by all of the positive energy and new friendships that have grown from this experience. Susan Dunne, courant.com, "Hartford Spirit Yoga Festival canceled," 7 Sep. 2019 This is a part narrative of my journey and experience, and partly a reflection on the Indian venture capital (VC) industry. Sajith Pai, Quartz India, "A newly-minted Indian VC takes an honest, hard-nosed look at his industry," 6 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Palm Beach County has a 45-55 percent chance of experiencing hurricane-force winds, which means speeds of at least 74 miles per hour, the National Weather Service said. David Fleshler, sun-sentinel.com, "Hurricane Dorian track still aimed at South Florida, and projected Category 4 strength could bring massive storm surge," 30 Aug. 2019 This is not Andrew Maxwell in 2013 — Lewerke’s body of work and experience the past three seasons give MSU coaches more trust in him as the starter. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "MSU football mailbag: What to expect from offense? Dantonio on hot seat?," 30 Aug. 2019 Berea is headquarters for Inedo, which has experienced rapid growth over the past 10 years, moving from several locations on Front Street as the business expanded. Linda G. Kramer, cleveland.com, "Berea software company expands: Community Voices," 29 Aug. 2019 The suit was filed by three firms with lawyers experienced with class-action lawsuits, including Chicago law firm Fegan Scott. Joe Mahr, chicagotribune.com, "Lawsuit filed against Apple, Samsung after Chicago Tribune tests cellphones for radiofrequency radiation," 29 Aug. 2019 Heimlich said the only carrier that saw fewer flights was Southwest Airlines, which has experienced a 1 percent to 2 percent decline in flights because of the grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX in March. Randy Diamond, ExpressNews.com, "San Antonio International sets passenger record — but numbers below U.S. average," 28 Aug. 2019 According to the American Hair Loss Association, while 85% of men will experience visible hair loss by the age of 50, so will 40% of women. Abigail Whittington, Good Housekeeping, "Does Rogaine Work? Here's Why Minoxidil Is the Best Solution for Hair Loss," 28 Aug. 2019 Every character in 13 Reasons Why experienced their fair share of drama in season 3 and Zach was no different. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "Here's How Season 3 Ended for Every Character in "13 Reasons Why"," 28 Aug. 2019 The Northeast will also experience colder-than-normal temperatures for much of the upcoming winter, the almanac says. Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, "Farmers' Almanac predicts a 'polar coaster' this winter. Here's what that means in Indiana.," 27 Aug. 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

15 Sep 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

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


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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