audience (n.)

late 14c., "the act or state of hearing, action or condition of listening," from Old French audience, from Latin audentia "a hearing, listening," from audientum (nominative audiens), present participle of audire "to hear," from PIE compound *au-dh- "to perceive physically, grasp," from root *au- "to perceive."

Meaning "formal hearing or reception, opportunity of being heard" also is from late 14c.; that of "persons within hearing range, assembly of listeners" is from early 15c. (a member of one might be an audient, 1610s). French audience retains only the older senses. Sense transferred by 1855 to "readers of a book," by 1946 to "viewers of television programs." Audience-participation (adj.) is recorded by 1938 in reference to radio.

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Definitions of audience from WordNet

audience (n.)
a gathering of spectators or listeners at a (usually public) performance;
someone in the audience began to cough
the audience applauded
audience (n.)
the part of the general public interested in a source of information or entertainment;
every artist needs an audience
the broadcast reached an audience of millions
audience (n.)
an opportunity to state your case and be heard;
he saw that he had lost his audience
Synonyms: hearing
audience (n.)
a conference (usually with someone important);
he requested an audience with the king
Synonyms: consultation / interview