Definition of learn in English:



  • 1Gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught.

    ‘they'd started learning French’
    [with infinitive] ‘she is learning to play the piano’
    [no object] ‘we learn from experience’
    • ‘Attitudes are learnt through observation of those in relative power or seniority.’
    • ‘Here, a group of children are busy learning the basics of education these days through a theatre workshop.’
    • ‘You mentioned that you could not be aware while learning a foreign language.’
    • ‘You would think, after the first 11 years, that the wise guys might have learned their lesson and moved their operations somewhere else.’
    • ‘Neither does one want to waste time learning skills and information which will soon be as useless as hats for silt.’
    • ‘She was learning American thought and culture without any criticism.’
    • ‘He had grown his intellectual ego, by learning the art of retrospection and sober second thought.’
    • ‘I can't find a moral in the story, or a worth-while lesson to be learned of it.’
    • ‘On board were up to 130 cadets getting a general education as well as learning seamanship from the 20 staff.’
    • ‘One way to tell a young soul from an old soul is to observe how quickly he learns karma's lessons in life.’
    • ‘For him, the key to settling successfully in a foreign culture is not just learning the language.’
    • ‘He also observed the students learning an aversion to investigating patients' social and psychological problems.’
    • ‘A child is learning unbelievable amounts of information.’
    • ‘One now asks whether cultural codes are learned in some language-like way.’
    • ‘Everyone gets more or less that same elementary education, learning basic history and to read and to do basic math.’
    • ‘Ormond Square was my first training ground, where I learnt my craft and developed a love for the beautiful game that I still have.’
    • ‘He adds that he is no longer a dreadful student, has letters after his name, and has learnt a useful lesson from his North Sea mishap.’
    • ‘And rather than trust the author to go on developing and learning her trade, they dumped her.’
    • ‘The gifted apprentice attaches himself early to a wise teacher, learning the craft at his hands, six or eight hours a day, every day of the week.’
    • ‘Their author has evolved into a prose sophisticate, and clearly learnt some important lessons along the way.’
    acquire a knowledge of, gain an understanding of, acquire skill in, become competent in, become proficient in, grasp, master, take in, absorb, assimilate, pick up, digest, familiarize oneself with
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    1. 1.1 Commit to memory.
      ‘I'd learned too many grim poems in school’
      • ‘Previous studies of bilingual memory have primarily used word lists as materials to be learned.’
      • ‘Your mind may contain stores of knowledge because you learn rapidly, and you retain what has been learned.’
      • ‘He learns bucket-loads of information, including the brazenly anti-union pitches made by the various nations.’
      • ‘Name by name, she learned them so that she could remember them later on when riding.’
      • ‘It seems college instruction has moved or is moving back to memorization and rote learning.’
      • ‘There is no information about where Ellen learned her tales or from whom.’
      • ‘Many of the chants and songs I learned are soon to fade from campus memory.’
      • ‘There is likely to be a real zest for learning facts and information.’
      • ‘Just wait and see how mobiles companies will try to make us learn a numeric user name rather than an alphabetic one.’
      • ‘You try to concentrate on learning pertinent facts and are aware that what is now in vogue will eventually become dated.’
      • ‘We learned a large amount of information and did a mock theory test which has prepared us all for our theory test to get our provisional licences.’
      • ‘I haven't, for instance, recommended memorising great swathes of sporting statistics, or learning the eight times tables.’
      • ‘Well, I think part of the problem is that the students are not learning and retaining the material.’
      memorize, learn by heart, learn by rote, commit to memory, become word-perfect in, learn word for word, learn parrot-fashion, get down pat, get off pat, have down pat, have off pat, know, retain
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    2. 1.2 Become aware of (something) by information or from observation.
      [with clause] ‘I learned that they had eaten already’
      [no object] ‘the military learned of a plot to attack the presidential compound’
      • ‘He said he was shocked beyond belief when he learned that literacy students were having their course cut.’
      • ‘I was unaware of the seriousness of her illness until I learned of her death.’
      • ‘She only learned of her death when she returned for a home visit last week.’
      • ‘The Leader of the House is saying that the Minister did not have enough time to discover on what date he learnt a piece of information.’
      • ‘Those were the same words a second-in-command had said when learning Jasmine's name three long years ago.’
      • ‘More can be learned of the conditions of prisoners in New Jersey than in either Connecticut or New York.’
      • ‘His passing last week was learned of with very deep and genuine regret within this community.’
      • ‘She sighed when she thought about all the information that she had learned that night.’
      • ‘Despite Lynn being in Honors, she was a big slacker and the teacher had learned this bit of information a long time ago.’
      • ‘I first learned of this incident more than 20 years ago.’
      • ‘He said he deleted the names when he learned the report would be made public, as he only had one witness.’
      • ‘She was in her early fifties and her death was learned of with great regret by all who knew her during her short stay.’
      • ‘We first learned of its existence when she was eight years old and began having vision problems.’
      • ‘Her family was not consulted, and only learned of her death a month later.’
      • ‘He learns that three other names have been suggested to go.’
      • ‘Their grandfather had come to rescue them when he learned of their existence.’
      • ‘It is from him that I learned that liberation movements, revolution, terrorism live in a world of their own and create their own etymology.’
      • ‘He learns his birth name as a teenager, but nothing more, and it is evident that this void has created a corresponding void in his soul.’
      • ‘As usual there was a small turn out for the meeting but those who did attend learned a great deal of new information.’
      • ‘Being younger than her I learned loads of things by simple observation.’
      discover, find out, become aware, be made aware, be informed, have it brought to one's attention, hear, be given to understand, get to know, come to know, hear tell
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  • 2informal, archaic Teach (someone)

    ‘“That'll learn you,” he chuckled’
    [with object and infinitive] ‘we'll have to learn you to milk cows’
    • ‘So the help you got has learned you to have faith in yourself.’


In modern standard English, it is wrong to use learn to mean teach, as in that'll learn you (correct use is that'll teach you). This meaning has been recorded since the 13th century and has been used by writers such as Spenser, Bunyan, and Samuel Johnson, but it fell into disfavor in the early 19th century and is now found only in nonstandard and dialect use


  • learn one's lesson

    • Acquire a greater understanding of the world through a particular unpleasant or stressful experience.

      • ‘When will the occupiers learn their lesson and withdraw?’
      • ‘They are in the minority however, and most learn their lesson and do better in the second year.’
      • ‘Ours are professionals and the Americans will soon learn their lesson.’
      • ‘This time I'll make sure you learn your lesson!’
      • ‘Despite warnings, the city's near-sighted swimmers still wear their glasses when swimming in wave-making pools, and most of them don't learn their lesson until they lose their glasses.’
      • ‘How will I learn my lesson if I forget what happened?’
      • ‘‘Perhaps now you'll learn your lesson,’ I gloated as I handed everything over to him.’
      • ‘Perhaps this time around the Democrats will learn their lesson.’
      • ‘I brought you here as a companion, but I thought you'd learn your lesson about your boyfriend.’
      • ‘Either the audience will hate it or they'll like it, so you learn your lesson.’


Old English leornian learn (in Middle English also teach), of West Germanic origin; related to German lernen, also to lore.