ex·​po·​nent | \ ik-ˈspō-nənt How to pronounce exponent (audio) , ˈek-ˌspō- How to pronounce exponent (audio) \

Definition of exponent

1 : a symbol written above and to the right of a mathematical expression to indicate the operation of raising to a power
2a : one that expounds or interprets
b : one that champions, practices, or exemplifies

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You probably won't be surprised to learn that "exponent" shares an ancestor with "proponent" - and indeed, the Latin ponere ("to put") is at the root of both terms. "Exponent" descends from "exponere" ("to explain" or "to set forth"), which joins "ponere" with "ex-" ("out"). "Proponent" traces to "proponere" ("to display" or "to declare"), from "ponere" and "pro-" ("before"). "Proponent" can describe someone who offers a proposal (it's related to "propose," which also ultimately comes from "proponere"), but today it usually means "one 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, and in addition it has retained its earlier meaning of "one who expounds."

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 Pitkin was an exponent of heavy and powerful locomotives which were a boon to a rapidly growing freight and passenger business. Wayne Whittaker, Popular Mechanics, 26 Aug. 2021 Mathematicians were nevertheless able to prove the unit conjecture for many specific classes of groups by showing that those groups had a property akin to the notion of the highest exponent in polynomials. Quanta Magazine, 12 Apr. 2021 At its Austrian resorts, Viva Mayr is a leading exponent of the balanced approach to a healthier and more contented way of living. Nel-olivia Waga, Forbes, 17 June 2021 The real exponent of the aircraft that is shaped like an arrowhead, however, is Convair, builder of the F-102A. Convair used the wing for its Sea Dart seaplane and also for its XFY-1, the turboprop fighter that takes off and lands on its tail. Thomas E. Stimson, Popular Mechanics, 15 July 2021 The resort promotes the legacy of Henri Chenot who was an exponent of preventative healthcare rather than reactive medicine. Nel-olivia Waga, Forbes, 17 June 2021 These solutions are complex numbers, and they are referred to by the number in the exponent. Quanta Magazine, 25 May 2021 The result, by Josh Alman, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, and Virginia Williams of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shaves about one-hundred-thousandth off the exponent of the previous best mark. Quanta Magazine, 23 Mar. 2021 Since then mathematicians and computer scientists have jockeyed to lower the exponent further. Quanta Magazine, 8 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'exponent.' 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 exponent

1734, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for exponent

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

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The first known use of exponent was in 1734

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Last Updated

7 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Exponent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exponent. Accessed 24 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for exponent



English Language Learners Definition of exponent

: someone who supports a particular cause, belief, etc.
: someone who is known for a particular method, style, etc.
: a symbol that is written above and to the right of a number to show how many times the number is to be multiplied by itself


ex·​po·​nent | \ ik-ˈspō-nənt How to pronounce exponent (audio) \

Kids Definition of exponent

: a numeral written above and to the right of a number to show how many times the number is to be used as a factor The exponent 3 in 103 indicates 10 × 10 × 10.

More from Merriam-Webster on exponent

Nglish: Translation of exponent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of exponent for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about exponent


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