verb \ ˈlərn \
|Updated on: 3 Aug 2018

Definition of learn

learned play \ˈlərnd, ˈlərnt\; learning
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
: to acquire knowledge or skill or a behavioral tendency
  • were shocked to learn of her death


play \ˈlər-nə-bəl\ adjective



Can learn mean teach?

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.

Examples of learn in a Sentence

  1. People learn throughout their lives.

  2. I can't swim yet, but I'm learning.

  3. She's interested in learning French.

  4. We had to learn the rules of the game.

  5. I'm trying to learn my lines for the play.

  6. We had to learn the names of the state capitals.

  7. She learned through a letter that her father had died.

  8. I later learned that they had never called.

  9. We finally learned the truth about what had happened.

Recent Examples of learn from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of learn

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

LEARN Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of learn for English Language Learners

  • : to gain knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something

  • : to cause (something) to be in your memory by studying it

  • : to hear or be told (something) : to find out (something)

LEARN Defined for Kids


verb \ ˈlərn \

Definition of learn for Students

learned \ˈlərnd\ also learnt \ˈlərnt\; learning
1 : to get knowledge of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience
  • I'm learning a foreign language.
2 : memorize
  • Actors have to learn their lines.
3 : to become able through practice
  • Babies learn to walk.
4 : to come to realize and understand
  • You must learn right from wrong.
5 : to find out
  • I finally learned what had happened.
6 : to gain knowledge
  • The children were eager to learn.



Medical Dictionary


verb \ ˈlərn \

medical Definition of learn

learned play \ˈlərnd, ˈlərnt\ also learnt play \ˈlərnt\; learning
: to acquire (a change in behavior) by learning
: to acquire a behavioral tendency by learning



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