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 expressional (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 Also known as chhonk, tadka, vaghar, or tempering, among other names, blooming spices in fat is a South Asian cooking technique that brings the complex aromas to their fullest expression. Sarah Jampel, Bon Appétit, "If You’re Not Blooming Your Spices, You’re Missing Out on Big Flavor," 20 May 2020 Now that every night is spent indoors, my solo hobbies are becoming an expression of my extroverted tendencies. Ann Friedman, New York Times, "Check on an Extrovert Today," 14 May 2020 No longer may clues be gleaned from an expression of doubt as a justice leans forward from the bench. Mark Sherman And Jessica Gresko, The Christian Science Monitor, "Call-in court brings out an unusually chatty Clarence Thomas," 7 May 2020 Rushdie was saying that this is not merely a failure of language, but an expression of the isolation of an elite that thought its power was inviolable. Aatish Taseer, The Atlantic, "India Is No Longer India," 10 Apr. 2020 White recalls when, after the crisis of 1929, this immaculate colour was adopted for clothes as an expression of purity in the present, and of hope in the future. Hanna Flanagan,, "Vogue Italia Prints All-White Cover for Its April Issue to Signify 'Rebirth' amid Coronavirus Crisis," 8 Apr. 2020 The works await us as expressions of individuals and of entire cultures that have been—and vividly remain—light-years ahead of what passes for our understanding. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "Mortality and the Old Masters," 6 Apr. 2020 The hashtag #ThatWomanInMichigan has been trending on Twitter, with expressions of support for Whitmer. Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, "Gov. Whitmer: Michigan grateful for federal help, but state needs much more," 29 Mar. 2020 Lety Clara's Facebook post was rife with expressions of sympathy for the family's loss and raves about Klug's culinary prowess. Bob Dohr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Jonathan Klug, the original owner and longtime chef at Crawdaddy’s restaurant in West Allis, dies at 51," 27 Feb. 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

24 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Expression.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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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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