Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An unsettled, uncultivated region left in its natural condition, especially:
  • n. A large wild tract of land covered with dense vegetation or forests.
  • n. An extensive area, such as a desert or ocean, that is barren or empty; a waste.
  • n. A piece of land set aside to grow wild.
  • n. Something characterized by bewildering vastness, perilousness, or unchecked profusion: the wilderness of the city; the wilderness of counterespionage; a wilderness of voices.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An unsettled and uncultivated tract of land left in its natural state.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A tract of land, or a region, uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, whether a forest or a wide, barren plain; a wild; a waste; a desert; a pathless waste of any kind.
  • n. A disorderly or neglected place.
  • n. Quality or state of being wild; wildness.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A tract of land inhabited only by wild beasts; a desert, whether forest or plain.
  • n. A wild; a waste of any kind.
  • n. A part of a garden set apart for plants to grow in with unchecked luxuriance.
  • n. A confused or bewildering mass, heap, or collection.
  • n. Wildness.
  • n. Synonyms Wilderness, Desert. See desert.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a wooded region in northeastern Virginia near Spotsylvania where bloody but inconclusive battles were fought in the American Civil War
  • n. (politics) a state of disfavor
  • n. a bewildering profusion
  • n. a wild and uninhabited area left in its natural condition

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old English *wilddēornes, probably from wilddēor, wild beast : wilde, wild + dēor, wild animal.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Either from unattested Old English *wilddēornes (cognate with Dutch wildernis, German Wildnis), or from Old English wilddēoren ("wild, savage") + -nes ("-ness"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "'Wilderness is both the source of, and a repository of, our national myths about who we really are as a people. Yet the people who are left out there, living the myth, are more out of touch with American life and values than ever before. Ironically, we have always held in higher esteem those who make forays into the wilderness than those who live in it. We're creating an environment for ecotourism, but we're eliminating a culture dedicated to living on, and working with, the land.'"
    —James Campbell, The Final Frontiersman (New York and London: Atria Books, 2004), 254–255

    September 17, 2008