“Learning” is more popular as the present participle of the verb “learn.” But it has been used as a noun since the 18th century.
Is it learning or learnings? And is learnings a word? Discover the truth of what these terms mean and where they come from. You’ll also learn their synonyms and actual usage.
Where Did the Word Learnings Come From?
The word “learnings” can be traced back to the 19th and 20th centuries. But the mass noun “learning” has been around for a long time, around the Middle English or 14th century. It refers to “things learned,” “knowledge acquired,” or “lessons.”
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “learning” as “the act of a person who gains knowledge or skill.
In 1483, a book by Geoffrey de La Tour-Landry mentioned, “the thre enseygnementes or lernynges whiche Cathon gaf to his sone.” “Lernynges” is later on translated to “learnings,” which could mean “instruction,” “teaching,” or “lessons.”
During these centuries, English speakers thought the usages of “learning” and “learnings” were acceptable. Even the use of the verb “learn” followed the same perspective. It could either mean “to acquire knowledge” or “to impart knowledge.” For example:
- He learned about the planets from his father. (to acquire knowledge).
- His father learned him about the planets. (to impart knowledge).
Later on, grammarians found the confusion between its two definitions unacceptable. In the same way, they also stressed the importance of distinguishing between “lend” and “borrow.”
“Learnings,” which is already a countable noun, was developed as a counterpart of its cousin “teachings.” The term refers to “was taught.”
It surged in the 1950s in different academic and corporate settings. However, the term learnings was considered a useless business jargon.
Why are People Saying Learnings Instead of Lessons?
There is no actual reason for the questionable usage of the count noun “learnings” instead of lessons. We know so far that it’s a buzzword in business-speak.
A manager might discuss their “key learnings” or “positive learnings” from successful projects or learning sessions. Meanwhile, doctors share their “learnings” or the specific ideas they discovered.
Despite being more popular than “lessons” in the corporate setting, “learnings” is still incorrect. It’s an erroneous plural form of the colloquial term “learning.”
Lexico mislabels “mass usage,” which explains why “learnings” might sound wrong. Some accept the word as a plural-form mass usage instead of a mass noun. That means you can say “learnings from the project” but not “top ten learnings from the project.”
What is the Difference Between Learnings and Lessons?
The main difference between “learnings” and “lessons” is that “lessons” is more accurate. “Learnings” might be popular in constructions like “apply these learnings” or “top learnings,” but major dictionaries don’t recognize it.
A pedagogical expert or any educated person might consider “lessons” to discuss many instances of learning. The word assumes knowledge transfer as measurable. Meanwhile, “learnings” sees the transfer of knowledge as less measurable.
Whether you’re trying to say “learning” or “learnings,” here are some better alternatives. You can use these synonyms in almost any case.
- Lessons learned.
- Acquisition of knowledge.
- Accumulated knowledge.
Learnings in a Sentence
The game was packed full of talking points, here, reporters John Wiffen and Bobby Bridge share their six learnings from the Heineken Champions Cup encounter. (Leicester Mercury).
Flexibility, agility, resilience, and a universal dash to accelerate and adopt technology have been key learnings across sectors in the two years of the pandemic. (Live Mint)
“You nearly don’t want to go home and look them in the eye after doing something so stupid. You do take great learnings from these things. Sometimes it’s nice that they happen in the league because it would be much worse if it happened in the coming months.” (Irish Examiner)
So, Is “Learnings” a Word?
The use of “learnings” will surely be more widespread in the foreseeable future. To a non-native English speaker, this might not be an issue. But for many, it’s an abuse of the language.
You may use “learning” and “learnings” in informal contexts or corporate jargon. However, it’s still best to stick to synonyms “lessons” or “studies”. Learn about other unique words you can use, like hunky-dory!