from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An unsettled, uncultivated region, especially.
  • noun A large tract of land that has not been significantly affected by human activities.
  • noun A barren or desolate area; a wasteland.
  • noun Something characterized by bewildering vastness, perilousness, or unchecked profusion.

from The Century Dictionary.

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun 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.
  • noun A disorderly or neglected place.
  • noun obsolete Quality or state of being wild; wildness.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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


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

[Middle English, from Old English *wilddēornes, probably from wilddēor, wild beast : wilde, wild + dēor, wild animal.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Either from unattested Old English *wilddēornes (cognate with Dutch wildernis, German Wildnis), or from Old English wilddēoren ("wild, savage") + -nes ("-ness").


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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