ex·​po·​nent ik-ˈspō-nənt How to pronounce exponent (audio) ˈek-ˌspō- How to pronounce exponent (audio)
: a symbol written above and to the right of a mathematical expression to indicate the operation of raising to a power
: one that expounds or interprets
: one that champions, practices, or exemplifies

Did you know?

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that exponent and proponent have a lot in common. While the two share visual similarities and closely related definitions, they also have a common ancestor: the Latin ponere, meaning “to put.” Exponent comes from exponere, meaning “to explain, expound, or set forth,” while proponent comes from proponere, meaning “to expose to view, bring to one’s attention, propose.” Today, proponent usually refers to someone who argues in favor of something. Exponent can also refer to someone who is an advocate, but it tends to refer especially to someone who stands out as a shining representative of something. In addition, it has kept its earlier meaning of “one who expounds,” as well as its mathematical symbol meaning.

Examples of exponent in a Sentence

She has become one of America's foremost exponents of the romantic style in interior design. The exponent 3 in 103 indicates 10 x 10 x 10.
Recent Examples on the Web Demographic arithmetic is one of exponents: Just as populations expand when adults have multiple children who then go on to have their own large families, the reverse is also true. Simon Montlake, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 Mar. 2024 Pankaj Udhas, the Indian singer renowned as an exponent of the ghazal form of musical poetry, died in Mumbai after a prolonged illness. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 26 Feb. 2024 Particular values in these equations have certain exponents, like the 2 in x2. Charlie Wood, Quanta Magazine, 26 Feb. 2024 Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a stammering bachelor professor of mathematics at Oxford University, was a gifted amateur exponent of the fledgling art of photography and a man of profound religious beliefs and bounding imagination. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, 28 Feb. 2024 Introduction For a true phase transition in one dimension, mathematicians had proved that two of these exponents must be greater than 2. Charlie Wood, Quanta Magazine, 26 Feb. 2024 The new Asian street food and music experience pairs the flavors of Asia with rock ’n’ roll, highlighting Broward exponents of the cuisine. Greg Carannante, Sun Sentinel, 4 Jan. 2024 Their functions included computing higher-order multiplications, exponents and logarithms, among other mathematical operations. Alex Traub, New York Times, 10 Feb. 2024 Not the exponents of mainstream-press conventional wisdom. Barton Swaim, WSJ, 29 Dec. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'exponent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin exponent-, exponens, present participle of exponere — more at expose

First Known Use

1734, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of exponent was in 1734


Dictionary Entries Near exponent

Cite this Entry

“Exponent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exponent. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ex·​po·​nent ik-ˈspō-nənt How to pronounce exponent (audio) ˈek-ˌspō- How to pronounce exponent (audio)
: a symbol written above and to the right of a mathematical expression to mean raising that expression to the power of the symbol
in the expression a3, the exponent 3 indicates that a is to be raised to the third power
: a person who supports or favors a cause

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