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

With the help of DP Li Jinyang, Zhang evokes the eerie serenity of China’s provincial outback through extended sequence shots of the characters' trek across the wilderness. Clarence Tsui, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Pluto Moment' ('Ming Wang Xing Shi Ke'): Film Review | Cannes 2018," 23 May 2018 Among its other attributes, the Chugach wilderness is home to the largest concentration of tidewater glaciers in America. Nancy Lord, Anchorage Daily News, "In ‘A Wild Promise,’ a wilderness area in limbo and a book with a mission," 19 May 2018 Pioneers from the states flocked in and many took up ranching, acquiring the short strong ancestors of Ponce’s horses to round up the wild herds roaming the wilderness. Vincent Crampton, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Explore Florida's Hardee County: Where Cracker history finds a home," 6 May 2018 Armed with a book on corporate communication strategy and a sharp axe, Cozbi battles her way through the wilderness. Kt Hawbaker, chicagotribune.com, "House Theatre sets casting for world premiere of 'Borealis'," 3 July 2018 The Sycamore Fire is one of the many wildfires to burn through Arizona’s wilderness this year. Kimberly Rapanut, azcentral, "Wildfire in northwest Arizona grows to 230 acres, 25 percent containment," 29 May 2018 Stuart, Wilder and Taras all underscored that people should stay in groups and make noise when traveling through Alaska wilderness to avoid surprising a bear and, hopefully, avoid encounters in the first place. Tegan Hanlon, Anchorage Daily News, "Got bear spray? Here’s how to make sure you use it right.," 5 May 2018 While there, they were also snapped riding through the Lesotho wilderness — an artful image. Raisa Bruner, Time, "Prince William and Prince Harry's Most Iconic Moments Together," 26 Apr. 2018 Yeti markets them as the ideal companions for campers and other outdoor adventurers trudging through the wilderness on trips that require storing food and drinks. The Washington Post, OregonLive.com, "NRA supporters are blowing up Yeti coolers. Yeti says it's all a big mistake.," 24 Apr. 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

6 Nov 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).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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