Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb ap·ply \ə-ˈplī\

Simple Definition of apply

  • : to ask formally for something (such as a job, admission to a school, a loan, etc.) usually in writing

  • : to put or spread (something) on a surface, a part of the body, etc.

  • : to cause (force, pressure, etc.) to have an effect or to be felt

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of apply



  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to put to use especially for some practical purpose <applies pressure to get what he wants> b :  to bring into action <apply the brakes> c :  to lay or spread on <apply varnish> d :  to put into operation or effect <apply a law>

  3. 2 :  to employ diligently or with close attention <should apply yourself to your work>

  4. intransitive verb
  5. 1 :  to have relevance or a valid connection <this rule applies to freshmen only>

  6. 2 :  to make an appeal or request especially in the form of a written application <apply for a job>


play \-ˈplī(-ə)r\ noun

Examples of apply in a sentence

  1. For further information, apply to the address below.

  2. I applied in writing to several different companies.

  3. You must have a high school diploma for this job. High school dropouts need not apply.

  4. After applying a thin layer of paint to the wall and letting it dry, apply another coat.

  5. We applied the ointment to the cut.

  6. I washed my face and applied fresh makeup.

  7. Fertilizer was applied to the lawn every two weeks.

Origin and Etymology of apply

Middle English applien, from Anglo-French aplier, from Latin applicare, from ad- + plicare to fold — more at ply

First Known Use: 14th century

Rhymes with apply

aby, agley, air-dry, Alai, ally, Altai, anti, assai, awry, aye-aye, Bacchae, Baha'i, banzai, barfly, bee fly, Belgae, belie, bigeye, big lie, black eye, blackfly, black tie, blow-dry, blowby, blowfly, blue-sky, Bo Hai, bone-dry, bonsai, botfly, Brunei, buckeye, bugeye, bye-bye, canaille, catchfly, cat's-eye, Chennai, chess pie, Chiang Mai, cockeye, cockshy, come by, comply, cow pie, crane fly, cross-eye, deadeye, decry, deep-fry, deep-sky, deerfly, defy, Delphi, deny, descry, do by, dong quai, drip-dry, drop by, dry eye, dry fly, elhi, Eli, espy, face fly, firefly, fish-eye, flesh fly, flyby, fly high, forby, freeze-dry, frogeye, fruit fly, gadfly, gallfly, get by, GI, glass eye, go by, good-bye, greenfly, grisaille, gun-shy, Haggai, Hawkeye, heel fly, hereby, hi-fi, hog-tie, horn fly, horsefly, housefly, imply, jai alai, July, Karzai, Kasai, knee-high, lanai, Lanai, lay-by, lay by, Lehigh, let fly, Levi, lie by, magpie, mai tai, mao-tai, Masai, mayfly, medfly, mind's eye, Moirai, mooneye, Mumbai, my eye, nearby, necktie, nilgai, nisi, outbye, outcry, oxeye, pad thai, Panay, panfry, Parcae, piece-dye, pigsty, pinkeye, Po Hai, pop eye, pop fly, potpie, put by, Qinghai, quasi, rabbi, red-eye, rely, reply, rib eye, ride high, rocaille, rough-dry, run dry, Sakai, sand fly, sci-fi, screw eye, semi, Sendai, serai, set by, shanghai, Shanghai, sheep's eye, shoofly, shut-eye, Sinai, sky-high, small-fry, stand by, standby, stir-fry, string tie, supply, swear by, terai, test-fly, thereby, tie-dye, titi, tongue-tie, Transkei, twist tie, two-ply, untie, vat dye, Versailles, walleye, well-nigh, whereby, whitefly, wild rye, wise guy

APPLY Defined for Kids


verb ap·ply \ə-ˈplī\

Definition of apply for Students



  1. 1 :  to request especially in writing <apply for a job>

  2. 2 :  to lay or spread on <apply a coat of paint>

  3. 3 :  to place in contact <apply heat>

  4. 4 :  to have relation or a connection <This law applies to everyone.>

  5. 5 :  to put to use <I applied my knowledge.>

  6. 6 :  to give full attention <I applied myself to my work.>

Medical Dictionary


transitive verb ap·ply \ə-ˈplī\

Medical Definition of apply




  1. :  to lay or spread on <apply antiseptic to a cut>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up apply? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


articulated in the throat

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of namby-pamby?

insightful lithe insipid energetic
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.