learn

verb

learned ˈlərnd How to pronounce learn (audio) ˈlərnt How to pronounce learn (audio) ; learning

transitive verb

1
a(1)
: to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience
learn a trade
learned to play chess
(2)
: memorize
learn the lines of a play
b
: to come to be able
learn to dance
c
: to come to realize
learned that honesty paid
2
a
nonstandard : teach
b
obsolete : to inform of something
3
: to come to know : hear
we just learned that he was ill

intransitive verb

: to acquire knowledge or skill or a behavioral tendency
were shocked to learn of her death
learnable adjective
learner noun
Can learn mean teach?: Usage Guide

Learn in the sense of "teach" dates from the 13th century and was standard until at least the early 19th.

made them drunk with true Hollands—and then learned them the art of making bargains Washington Irving

But by Mark Twain's time it was receding to a speech form associated chiefly with the less educated.

never done nothing for three months but set in his back yard and learn that frog to jump Mark Twain

The present-day status of learn has not risen. This use persists in speech, but in writing it appears mainly in the representation of such speech or its deliberate imitation for effect.

Choose the Right Synonym for learn

discover, ascertain, determine, unearth, learn mean to find out what one did not previously know.

discover may apply to something requiring exploration or investigation or to a chance encounter.

discovered the source of the river

ascertain implies effort to find the facts or the truth proceeding from awareness of ignorance or uncertainty.

attempts to ascertain the population of the region

determine emphasizes the intent to establish the facts definitely or precisely.

unable to determine the origin of the word

unearth implies bringing to light something forgotten or hidden.

unearth old records

learn may imply acquiring knowledge with little effort or conscious intention (as by simply being told) or it may imply study and practice.

I learned her name only today
learning Greek

Example Sentences

People learn throughout their lives. I can't swim yet, but I'm learning. She's interested in learning French. We had to learn the rules of the game. I'm trying to learn my lines for the play. We had to learn the names of the state capitals. She learned through a letter that her father had died. I later learned that they had never called. We finally learned the truth about what had happened. See More
Recent Examples on the Web When people learn alternative uses for indigo and reconnect with the land, appreciation for the plant will only increase, Mills says. Latria Graham, Smithsonian Magazine, 2 Dec. 2022 Huge chunks of the story take place underwater, and several castmembers had to learn to free dive to meet Cameron’s standard of realism. Rebecca Keegan, The Hollywood Reporter, 30 Nov. 2022 In each intermediate robot, the finger sizes and weights got a little smaller, and the network controlling them had to learn to adjust. Matthew Hutson, Scientific American, 23 Nov. 2022 This generation of Buckeyes didn’t know any better and had to learn the hard way because of it. Stephen Means, cleveland, 23 Nov. 2022 The immortal is a skilled warrior who carries herself with confidence — something Clark had to learn. Emily Zemler, Los Angeles Times, 23 Nov. 2022 Our then 9-year-old daughter had to learn to eat, talk, move and walk again. Ashley Luthern, Journal Sentinel, 21 Nov. 2022 Returning to the role and reuniting with costar Amy Adams meant the actor had to learn his choreography — with a sword to boot. Yolanda Machado, EW.com, 20 Nov. 2022 While Rilea and the Core Leadership Program injected a sense of self-confidence and healthy competition into the team, Scappoose had to learn to temper both to reach the Class 4A semifinals. Aaron Heisen, oregonlive, 18 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'learn.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English lernen, from Old English leornian; akin to Old High German lernēn to learn, Old English last footprint, Latin lira furrow, track

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a(1)

Time Traveler
The first known use of learn was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near learn

Cite this Entry

“Learn.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/learn. Accessed 7 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

learn

verb

learned ˈlərnd How to pronounce learn (audio) ˈlərnt How to pronounce learn (audio) ; learning
1
: to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience
2
: memorize
learn the lines of a play
3
a
: to come to be able to
learn to swim
b
: to come to realize
4
substandard : to cause to learn : teach
5
6
: to acquire knowledge
never too late to learn
learnable adjective
learner noun

Medical Definition

learn

verb

learned ˈlərnd How to pronounce learn (audio) ˈlərnt How to pronounce learn (audio) also learnt ˈlərnt How to pronounce learn (audio) ; learning

transitive verb

: to acquire (a change in behavior) by learning

intransitive verb

: to acquire a behavioral tendency by learning
learner noun

More from Merriam-Webster on learn

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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