ex·pres·sion | \ ik-ˈspre-shən \

Definition of expression 

1a : an act, process, or instance of representing in a medium (such as words) : utterance freedom of expression

b(1) : something that manifests, embodies, or symbolizes something else this gift is an expression of my admiration for you

(2) : a significant word or phrase

(3) : a mathematical or logical symbol or a meaningful combination of symbols

(4) : the detectable effect of a gene also : expressivity sense 1

2a : a mode, means, or use of significant representation or symbolism especially : felicitous or vivid indication or depiction of mood or sentiment read the poem with expression

b(1) : the quality or fact of being expressive

(2) : facial aspect or vocal intonation as indicative of feeling

3 : an act or product of pressing out

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Other words from expression

expressional \ik-ˈspresh-nəl, -ˈspre-shə-nᵊl \ adjective

Synonyms for expression


idiom, phrase

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Examples of expression in a Sentence

Dance is a form of artistic expression. He uses some very odd expressions. The expression “to make fun of” means “to ridicule.” Judging from her expression, I think the gift was a complete surprise. We saw his expression change from angry to sad. She wore a smug expression.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Also unwelcome would be the public tongue-lashings Mr Xi might face from an American president who is currently all sweetness and light in his personal expressions towards China’s leader. The Economist, "In its trade war with America, China dials down the hype," 12 July 2018 Nursing was only one, and perhaps an even narrow, expression of Ola's concern for the wellbeing of others., "Ola K. Ferla," 11 July 2018 However its role as an aggressive expression in its own right is particularly appropriate for this age. Brendan Leonard, Outside Online, "Learning to Be Funny," 9 July 2018 Hundreds of people took to the streets in the southwestern city of Khorramshahr over the weekend in a demonstration prompted by anger at dirty drinking water that turned into an expression of broader grievances against the government in Tehran. Asa Fitch, WSJ, "New Unrest Roils Iran as U.S. Ramps Up Pressure," 1 July 2018 Canadian prime minster Justin Trudeau tweeted an expression of sorrow for what happened in Annapolis, with a brief explainer on what journalists do. Claire Atkinson, NBC News, "Capital Gazette covers its own terrible news," 29 June 2018 Wills is usually a spectator, commentating on the show only with his facial expressions. Rebecca Farley,, "The Bachelorette Season 14, Episode 4 Recap: Two Rose Ceremonies, One Clown," 19 June 2018 When the brain either reacts to a stimulus spontaneously or decides to form an expression intentionally, a message is sent out over the sixth and seventh cranial nerves. Neil Steinberg, CNN, "How far would you go to be able to smile?," 13 June 2018 And, to me, food is an expression of art, and so cooking can and should be a political act too. Angela Dimayuga, Bon Appetit, "Chef Angela Dimayuga on Her Last Conversation with Anthony Bourdain," 11 June 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Last Updated

14 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for expression

The first known use of expression was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for expression



English Language Learners Definition of expression

: the act of making your thoughts, feelings, etc., known by speech, writing, or some other method : the act of expressing something

: a word or phrase

: the way someone's face looks that shows emotions and feelings


ex·pres·sion | \ ik-ˈspre-shən \

Kids Definition of expression

1 : the act or process of making known especially in words

2 : a meaningful word or saying Grandpa uses old-fashioned expressions.

3 : the look on someone's face She had a pleased expression.

4 : a way of speaking, singing, or playing that shows mood or feeling She read her lines with expression.


ex·pres·sion | \ ik-ˈspresh-ən \

Medical Definition of expression 

1a : something that manifests, represents, reflects, embodies, or symbolizes something else the first clinical expression of a disease

b(1) : the detectable effect of a gene also : the sum of the processes (as transcription and translation) by which a gene is manifested in the phenotype gene expression can be controlled by regulatory proteins that bind to specific sites on DNA —Mark Ptashne

(2) : expressivity

2 : facial aspect or vocal intonation as indicative of feeling

3 : an act or product of pressing out

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Legal Definition of expression 

1 : an act, process, or instance of representing or conveying in words or some other medium : speech protected expression under the First Amendment

2 : a mode or means of expressing an idea, opinion, or thought

Note: An expression is protectible under copyright law, but an idea is not.

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Comments on expression

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