- a wild and uncultivated region, as of forest or desert, uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals; a tract of wasteland.
- a tract of land officially designated as such and protected by the U.S. government.
- any desolate tract, as of open sea.
- a part of a garden set apart for plants growing with unchecked luxuriance.
- a bewildering mass or collection.
Origin of wilderness
1150–1200; Middle English; Old English *wil(d)dēornes, equivalent to either wil(d)dēor wild beast (see wild, deer) + -nes -ness, or wilddēoren wild, savage (wilddēor + -en -en2) + (-n)es -ness; probably reinforced by Middle English wildernes, genitive of wildern wilderness (noun use of Old English wilddēoren), in phrases like wildernes land land of wilderness
1. See desert1.
- a wooded area in NE Virginia: several battles fought here in 1864 between armies of Grant and Lee.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for wilderness
They carved a refuge out of the wilderness and then, in 200 years, built it into the most powerful nation on earth.Mario Cuomo, Always Moving Us Toward the Light
January 4, 2015
The original metaphor was: erect a wall to keep the garden of the church free from the wilderness of politics.Dear Evangelicals: You’re Being Had
November 30, 2014
Hold the Dark is set in the Alaskan wilderness, in an isolated village at the lip of the tundra.Compliments Are Nice, but Enough With the Cormac McCarthy Comparisons
October 21, 2014
I went back while Lorne [Michaels] was on his 5-year jaunt in the wilderness, and Ebersol was producing.Harry Shearer on Being Nixon, ‘The Simpsons Movie’ Sequel, and Why Obama Should Return His Nobel
October 21, 2014
In short, the wilderness skills and outdoor abilities that the founding mothers intended.Should Girl Scouts Go Back to Basics?
October 17, 2014
"You have wandered long in the wilderness," continued the minister.
Fretted by the pain, he plunged into the wilderness to hide like a wounded deer.The Bacillus of Beauty
And, in spite of these disturbances, business goes on briskly in the market of the wilderness.Old News
And Albany was then almost as much in the wilderness as Caughnawaga.
I thought that in the wilderness one heard always the night-yelping of the wolves.
- a wild, uninhabited, and uncultivated region
- any desolate tract or area
- a confused mass or collection
- a voice in the wilderness or a voice crying in the wilderness a person, group, etc, making a suggestion or plea that is ignored
- in the wilderness no longer having influence, recognition, or publicity
Old English wildēornes, from wildēor wild beast (from wild + dēor beast, deer) + -ness; related to Middle Dutch wildernisse, German Wildernis
- the Wilderness the barren regions to the south and east of Palestine, esp those in which the Israelites wandered before entering the Promised Land and in which Christ fasted for 40 days and nights
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Word Origin and History for wilderness
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper