What is an English word that means together a combination of both experience and innate skills?

I thought of the word talent but it conveys much more about skills than experience. I am looking for a word that at once describes the summation of both innate skill/talent as well as whatever (in addition to skill/talent) has been accumulated through experience.

An example sentence for me might be something like this: "The skills and experience of the expert were very significant." But I want to replace the part "skills and experience" with a single word: "The <blank> of the expert was very significant."

This sparked me to also think of the word prowess but I am not sure if the connotation of that word allows it to be used in most common places. It is unusual to describe the "prowess" of an auto mechanic, for example, but I'd still like a single word of this sort for describing experts who are possibly auto mechanics (just as an example).

Is there such a word?

  • 1
    Probably, an "expert".
    – Misti
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 14:34
  • 1
    Background could actually work very well. From @MystiSinha's comment, perhaps also "expertise".
    – user65787
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 14:39
  • 3
    Background seems to lean more towards "experience" than towards "skill"; i.e. it doesn't really imply any sense of innate talent. Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 19:09
  • 1
    @prpl.mnky.dshwshr - You know, that's where I met Mingo. Yeah. The best point man ever. Some kind of savant, you know. No ambush this guy couldn't sniff. And under fire, the coolest cat ever. Just pure ice in his veins. /Galgo from 'The Expendables 3'/ Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 0:30
  • 2
    I think the question is backwards - to me, skill is what you have when you get a combination of raw talent/ability and expertise. I think skill is your answer.
    – xorsyst
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 17:42

13 Answers 13


Background is close to what you are looking for:

  • one's origin, education, experience, training etc., in relation to one's present character or status.

(from TFD)

  • 1
    Background is synonymous with experience (interchange them in a sentence). Expertise is almost synonymous with Skill, and actually differs in the that Expertise involves Experience. Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 17:53
  • As someone who actively looks at applications for potential hires, someone who says background, to me, is someone who may have had some exposure or even some firsthand experience sometime in the past, but it's not something that accents their career. Expertise would be more relevant, in my opinion. Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 18:57
  • With this word, the example sentence is: "The background of the expert was very significant." This doesn't say anything about talent, just experience.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 3:21

"Expertise" can be used to convey both skill and experience.

From Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

ex·per·tise noun \ˌek-(ˌ)spər-ˈtēz, -ˈtēs\

special skill or knowledge : the skill or knowledge an expert has


I would suggest competence. You can be very experienced in something but still incompetent. You can have great talent or achieved skills in a theoretical field but still be incompetent in practice.

Though competence is not directly defined as a combination of these attributes it does suggest the existance of both.

Expertise is maybe even closer to what you are looking for.

merriam-webster says:

special skill or knowledge : the skill or knowledge an expert has

  • 1
    Using competence in this context would be damning with faint praise. Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 11:02

In your context, I suggest qualifications:

a special skill or type of experience or knowledge that makes someone suitable to do a particular job or activity

As indicated in the definition, it applies to any of skill, experience, or knowledge. In a career advice article, qualifications were discussed:

Employers look at three basic factors when considering the qualifications of job applicants: education, skills and experience. As you progress in your career, your education will matter less, while the skills and experience you’ve amassed will be more important. Understanding how employers match qualifications to specific jobs will help you better prepare yourself for a successful career path.
Job Qualification Examples, by Sam Ashe-Edmunds

And in an article discussing the qualifications of an expert witness:

In the United States, under the Federal Rule of Evidence 702 (FRE), an expert witness must be qualified on the topic of testimony. In determining the qualifications of the expert, the FRE requires the expert have specialized education, training, or practical experience in the subject matter relating to the case.
Expert witness, in Wikipedia

So, in your sentence:

The qualifications of the expert were very significant.

And this would mean the expert had significant skills, experience, knowledge, or some combination of the three.

I do believe expertise is actually the best word to describe the collection of qualifications of an expert, but using that word in the example sentence under question would sound redundant, and would need rewording.

  • Whereas talent conveys more about innate abilities or skills, and not enough about experiences, I think qualifications has the reverse problem. It conveys more about your itemized experiences and less about innate abilities which sometimes might be more subjective or less amenable to certifiable measurement.
    – user65787
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 20:08
  • @prpl.mnky.dshwshr: I don't personally believe qualifications connotes one over the other. A qualification is either innate ability or acquired knowledge. A well qualified expert would have both.
    – jxh
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 20:15
  • well even though I strongly agree that "qualifications" can fit the sentence perfectly, the critique is just. qualification subtly implies that you over time qualified* through experience/resiliance. Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 20:25
  • @AverageGatsby: I understand the merit of the critique, but consider it an opinion not a factual justification. There are numerous examples where a person is considered more qualified than a person with more experience.
    – jxh
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 20:52

I would have said that the capabilities (singular or plural) of the expert were considerable.


For me Expertise should be the word as it shows the skill of a person and also experience. Expertise could not be attained without experience and if someone has expertise it automatically implies the person is skilled.

noun: expert skill or knowledge in a particular field.
synonyms: skill, skillfulness, expertness, prowess, proficiency, competence.


My suggestions are:

  • mastership - it conveys both innate and developed skills while not restricting to any of them;
  • sphere of working + SAVANT - for example a 'math expert' says nothing about the pre-built and post-built skills, whereas 'math savant' conveys both talented and active in that field individual.

Hope this helps.

Add-on: Your [blank] could be either mastership or savantness, the latter being a new coinage.

  • Any thoughts on mastery?
    – user3490
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 22:54
  • @user3490 My English is not good enough to guide others but my drive to interact takes over, so: Mastery is good, yet I think mastership trumps mastery because it falls in the 'family' with 'swordsmanship' and as MW says: 2 a obsolete : the personality of a master — used as a title of courtesy. See, along with skills there is a nuance of personality, which is perfect for what OP asked, however OP wants something else. Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 23:14
  • 1
    Mastership is rather more obsolete.
    – user3490
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 0:04
  • @user3490 Does it matter? Anyway, what about 'savantship'! Google Books example: So these ones as they are regarded as unteachable, are not taught to lose/deny/override/fight against/etc/etc, their innate talent (savantship)? /'This Book Is a Littlenuts Or I Am' book/ Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 0:09
  • It depends on the context - sometimes the more archaic version might be more appropriate, sometimes perhaps not.
    – user3490
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 0:13

One descriptive, albeit slightly poetic, word that hasn't been mentioned, but which represents knowledge, experience and the capacity to use these effectively, is wisdom.

wisdom /ˈwɪzdəm/ noun: the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement; the quality of being wise.

Source: Google

  • wisdom is the word indeed though it is probably not the word prpl-mnky-dshwshr has in mind.good answer!
    – sojourner
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 10:19

'Ace' looks simple and 'trendy'. 'Wise/wisdom' connotes to 'older' often.


I would go with ability.

This implies the combination of skills and experience we're looking for, as it refers to actually being able to do something. If you have high ability, then you would likely have both talent and experience.

Here's a usage note from the Wiktionary entry for 'ability':

Ability has reference to the active exercise of our faculties. It implies not only native vigor of mind, but that ease and promptitude of execution which arise from mental training. Thus, we speak of the ability with which a book is written, an argument maintained, a negotiation carried on, etc. It always supposes something to be done,[usage 1] and the power of doing it.


know-how: although the definition says nothing of experience, I've always heard it in the context of having not only the knowledge but also de practical experience of having solved a kind of technical problem in the past.


My humble thought is to suggest, the word literacy. Expand the inclusive meaning to imply as in reading, the combined integration of acquired knowledge and combination of complex skills with personal and social experience to possess and demonstrate fluent ability.


Perhaps not so strong a word as the one you are looking for, "knack" refers to innate and acquired skills. - ODO

knack - (noun) "a special talent or skill, especially one difficult to explain or teach" - TFD

  • "he had a knack for communicating"
  • "Bob Dylan had a knack for writing song lyrics."
  • 1
    I generally agree, though knack does seem to be a bit limited in degree and precision. For example, "Einstein had a knack for mathematics" is almost-comically understated, and a job posting for a professional chef position worded "Now hiring: someone with a knack for cooking" is frustratingly vague. By these measures, if you're trying to precisely describe someone's skills and experience, knack doesn't seem to work too well. On the other hand, if you're trying to be humble, vague, or funny, knack fits the bill perfectly.
    – talrnu
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 16:33
  • Knack implies skill before experience, i.e. talent.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 3:23