Learn English – Differences between “knowledge” and “experience”



I'm exploring how people acquire, share and efficiently apply knowledge and experience; structuring my thoughts by writing axioms, propositions and formulae.

When writing, I struggle with choosing the right words to accurately describe certain thoughts around these subjects, because some essential words are either ambiguous, synonymous or overlapping; yet I feel like there are subtle distinctions that I fail to discern.


Specifically, I struggle with choosing between knowledge and experience.

These are the definitions I have in mind:

Knowledge: Facts, information, and skills acquired through experience
or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Experience: The knowledge or skill acquired by a period of practical
experience of something, especially that gained in a particular

What are the nuances and differences between knowledge and experience?

My current understanding is that knowledge and experience are very much synonymous, however, knowledge emphasises theory, whereas experience emphasises practice. Whenever I struggle with choosing between the two, it's usually because I'm looking for an "all inclusive" word.

Here are a few excerpts from my own working definitions:

Knowledge is the sum of my impressions, based on how I understand my sensory input. Experience is the act of exercising and challenging my knowledge (or lack thereof), in order to obtain sensory input. There is a symbiotic relationship between knowledge (theory) and experience (practice).

One of the things I'm trying to figure out is if the mutualistic relationship between knowledge and experience is obligate or facultative in nature.

Does there exist a collective term that includes all nuances of both knowledge and experience?

I greatly appreciate any information and advice you can give me.

Best Answer

There IS a word which encapsulates pretty much everything of concern to you, vis a vis "knowledge" and "experience." It's called WISDOM. Wisdom is the product of openness to experience, keen observation and listening skills, the hard work of discipline, patience in learning, goal orientation, delayed gratification, efficiency, know-how, good memory, discernment, insight, humility, and probably a hundred or more character traits which unite knowledge and experience. A good antonym for wisdom is foolishness, which can be defined as immoral and unethical stupidity.

Perhaps some connected writing might prove helpful in understanding how the different words you've provided might be used.

"After interviewing candidate Smith for the job, I decided to give him a hands-on test in the workshop. Before I administered the test I asked him point blank: Do you have any knowledge of modern-day automobile carburetors? He answered affirmatively. The task I then gave him was to disassemble and then reassemble in 30 minutes a carburetor from a late model GM Buick.

"After the allotted time, he had not yet managed even to disassemble the carburetor. I concluded then and there that he had little or no experience in working with a typical late-model carburetor. His skill level was virtually nil, save for removing screws, which was the only ability he seemed to possess. Since he had no expertise in disassembling and reassembling the carburetor, I had no alternative but to tell him,

'Feel free to re-apply for the job when you have the necessary hands-on skill in working on carburetors. You might think of getting some experience under your belt by entering an apprenticeship program, in order to acquire some skills and perhaps even some expertise, which would make performing the task I gave you as easy as pie! When you have that expertise, feel free to come back to me and I'll give you another chance.'"