So I'm trying to find a word/phrase that fits the context of like "a knowledge that can only be truly understood by lived experience", it seems like 'esoteric' kind of fits, but from what I've seen esotericism has more to do with educational specialization instead of just like lived experience.

Some examples of the context I'm talking about would be like: the perspective of someone who suffers from mental health, things like being poor/impoverished, being in an abusive relationship, etc.

I've played around with words like 'wisdom' and 'empathy', but they don't really seem to fit.

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    Is there a chance that you're overlooking experience here? That seems to be the word you're after.
    – user405662
    May 23, 2021 at 20:53
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    @Cascabel I too wondered about esoteric - and recondite. But both relate to specialised knowledge and neither quite fits the specification of "lived experience", does it?
    – Anton
    May 23, 2021 at 21:11
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    Esoteric would definitely be a wrong word to use here, among other reasons, because it implies that the knowledge in question is possessed by a very small number of people, while it is possible for quite a few people to have some 'knowledge that can only be truly understood by lived experience'.
    – jsw29
    May 23, 2021 at 22:48
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    You need to “walk in their shoes” to understand them.
    – Xanne
    May 23, 2021 at 23:45

1 Answer 1


you might be looking for the word "experiential" as Wordnik defines it:

Relating to or having experience; derived from experience; empirical.

you can also use the word "empirical":

Pertaining to, derived from, or testable by observations made using the physical senses or using instruments which extend the senses.

  • Please see the comments by Mr. Ashworth, who first proposed experiential, and myself, below the question.
    – jsw29
    May 27, 2021 at 15:08

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