ex·​pres·​sion | \ ik-ˈspre-shən How to pronounce expression (audio) \

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 How to pronounce expression (audio) , -​ˈspre-​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective

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 The white supremacists and conspiracy theorists and thugs obeyed, even as their Dear Leader retreated to his White House to watch from a safe distance the fullest expression of their devotion to him., "A sorry spectacle we all knew was coming," 6 Jan. 2021 In early monastic Christianity, that hunger was acknowledged and channeled, given shape and form and expression. Fred Bahnson, Harpers Magazine, "The Gate of Heaven Is Everywhere," 5 Jan. 2021 In any case, there’s also another issue at play here: what many in the audio community would see as yet another expression of severe gender disparity. Nicholas Quah, Vulture, "L’Affaire Caliphate," 5 Jan. 2021 The gathering limitation does not apply to gathering for the purpose of worship or political expression where masks are continuously worn and where food and drink are not consumed. Anchorage Daily News, "Read the full text of Anchorage’s new ‘easing up’ emergency order," 29 Dec. 2020 MicroRNAs can regulate gene expression without altering the genetic code itself. CNN, "Hibernating primates like this tiny lemur could unlock cryogenic sleep for deep space missions," 28 Dec. 2020 Let gifts, both given and received, be about the expression of love rather than the item itself. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Dec. 25, 2020: Aries, share time with those you love; Capricorn, make spirits bright," 25 Dec. 2020 The florist is adept at expression via blooms, so much so that clients like Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Farfetch count on her to create the dazzling floral-scapes at their events and shows. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Fashion’s Chicest Florist on Jackie O, Tom Ford, and Dressing for Zoom," 24 Dec. 2020 As the expression goes, God helps those who help themselves. Noah Millman, TheWeek, "America's corrosive obsession with scarcity," 24 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for expression

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for expression

Last Updated

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Expression.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for expression


How to pronounce expression (audio)

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 How to pronounce expression (audio) \

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 How to pronounce expression (audio) \

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 : 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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