wil·der·ness | \ ˈwil-dər-nəs \

Definition of wilderness 

1a(1) : a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings

(2) : an area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community

b : an empty or pathless area or region in remote wildernesses of space groups of nebulae are found —G. W. Gray †1960

c : a part of a garden devoted to wild growth

2 obsolete : wild or uncultivated state

3a : a confusing multitude or mass : an indefinitely great number or quantity I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys —William Shakespeare

b : a bewildering situation those moral wildernesses of civilized life —Norman Mailer

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Examples of wilderness in a Sentence

She enjoys hikes through the wilderness. released the wolf back into the wilderness

Recent Examples on the Web

When President Donald Trump went after Jimmy Kimmel at a recent campaign rally in West Columbia, S.C., the late-night host was in the middle of the Montana wilderness with no cell service or WiFi. Megan Mccluskey, Time, "Jimmy Kimmel Isn't Letting Trump Get Away With That Rally Story About Him," 10 July 2018 Although a wilderness, it is easily accessed from greater Los Angeles via U.S. 101 to the north and Pacific Coast Highway on the Malibu coast to the south. Crimesider Staff, CBS News, "Probe into dad's tent slaying looks back to 7 past shootings," 29 June 2018 Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a 1,000-square-mile wilderness that straddles three counties and is a popular destination for wildflower enthusiasts, hikers and campers. J. Harry Jones, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Only 4 rangers patrolling 1,000-square-mile Anza-Borrego desert," 17 June 2018 Welcome to the Sonoran Desert, one of North America's great vast and open spaces, a serious wilderness within a few hours' flight of every major U.S. metro area. Peter Reese, Popular Mechanics, "4 Reasons Why You Need To Hike the Sonoran Desert," 2 May 2018 That’s the cost of the Panthers skate through the wilderness most of the past two decades. Dave Hyde, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Hyde: Panthers' playoffs have started — and they could use some good news | Commentary," 17 Mar. 2018 Just how far into the wilderness of presidential politics had the Democrats drifted by the time Clinton made his run? Neil Swidey, BostonGlobe.com, "How Democrats would be better off if Bill Clinton had never been president," 10 July 2018 Churchill went into the political wilderness between the two World Wars and during that time was a key voice criticizing then-Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement toward Adolf Hitler. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Clinton on being a polarizing figure: 'I'm sure they said that about Churchill between the wars'," 29 June 2018 An affluent pioneer, Samuel Alabaster (Robert Pattinson) ventures deep into the American wilderness to reunite with and marry the love of his life, Penelope (Mia Wasikowska). Michael Phillips, chicagotribune.com, "'Damsel' review: A sardonic Western courtship that lasts a lifetime," 28 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'wilderness.' 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 wilderness

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for wilderness

Middle English, from wildern wild, from Old English wilddēoren of wild beasts

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Last Updated

11 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for wilderness

The first known use of wilderness was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for wilderness



English Language Learners Definition of wilderness

: a wild and natural area in which few people live


wil·der·ness | \ ˈwil-dər-nəs \

Kids Definition of wilderness

: an area in its natural state in which few or no people live

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Comments on wilderness

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


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