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

Mandela rejected identity politics, of which apartheid was an extreme expression. Peter Godwin, WSJ, "Mandela’s Troubled Legacy," 13 July 2018 Either way, for Mr. Rambo, the venture into combating leaks appears to be the latest expression of an entrepreneurial personality. New York Times, "Border Agent Who Questioned Reporter Is Investigated for Computer Misuse," 12 July 2018 Your clothes and personal style is just an outward expression of your personality. Jamie Lisanti,, "Fashionable 50," 10 July 2018 The piece itself is an expression of the celebrated Chaine d’Ancre link created by Robert Dumas in 1938, and it can just as easily be worn classically in front or cascading down the back. Vogue, "Hermès’s Chaine d’Ancre Turns 80 This Year, and Pierre Hardy Has Created a High Jewelry Collection to Celebrate It," 3 July 2018 Designed by Costa Rican architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe, the nearly 3,000-square-foot home is the full expression of tropical indoor-outdoor living. Jenny Xie, Curbed, "Stunning ‘floating house’ with ocean and jungle views asks $2M," 3 July 2018 In front of the wolf, which really is lurking around like an unsubtle metaphor at this point, June emits a primal scream that is an expression of all of her inward trauma., "The Handmaid's Tale Season 2, Episode 11 Recap: The Wolf Is A Metaphor," 27 June 2018 Attempting suicide was an expression of control over my own destiny. CBS News, ""It's okay to not be okay": Suicide attempt survivors offer insight and advice," 26 June 2018 Cusk’s sternness, what some critics have even identified as a kind of cruelty, is also an expression of high expectations. Jordan Larson, The Cut, "Rachel Cusk’s Rules for Living," 25 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

9 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for expression

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

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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

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


an inexhaustible supply or amount

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