ap·​ply | \ ə-ˈplī How to pronounce apply (audio) \
applied; applying

Definition of apply

transitive verb

1a : to put to use especially for some practical purpose He 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
2 : to employ diligently or with close attention You should apply yourself to your work.

intransitive verb

1 : to have relevance or a valid connection This rule applies to freshmen only.
2 : to make an appeal or request especially in the form of a written application apply for a job

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from apply

applier \ ə-​ˈplī(-​ə)r How to pronounce apply (audio) \ noun

Examples of apply in a Sentence

For further information, apply to the address below. I applied in writing to several different companies. You must have a high school diploma for this job. High school dropouts need not apply. After applying a thin layer of paint to the wall and letting it dry, apply another coat. We applied the ointment to the cut. I washed my face and applied fresh makeup. Fertilizer was applied to the lawn every two weeks.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Lenders can apply covenants to restrict certain environmentally damaging activities. David Carlin, Forbes, "The Case For Fossil Fuel Engagement," 2 Mar. 2021 Interested mentors can apply through March 31 and a call for fishing fellows will follow. Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska fishermen optimistic as Pacific halibut fishery opens," 2 Mar. 2021 Tennessee’s charter schools can apply for a share of $5 million in grant funds offered through the Tennessee Department of Education for support and expansion. Vivian Jones, Washington Examiner, "Tennessee Department of Education grant program aims to expand charter schools with COVID-19 funds," 2 Mar. 2021 Utah renters can apply for rent assistance online beginning March 15. Karina Andrew, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Need help paying rent? Starting March 15, here’s how to get it.," 1 Mar. 2021 Students can apply to one of the many career tracks offered during the 2021 session. Paul Grein, Billboard, "Grammy Museum Spotlights a Beatle, Film Music & Women's History Month," 1 Mar. 2021 The organization is now entirely volunteer-led, and anyone can apply through to host a drive. Zareen Syed,, "2 college students harness TikTok to collect bras and tampons, combat period poverty," 27 Feb. 2021 Under a new pilot program, places that are providing COVID-19 vaccines can apply to the state health department by March 1 for up to 2,500 doses of vaccines aimed at reaching the most vulnerable Michigan residents ages 60 and older. Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, "COVID-19 vaccines, herd immunity and more: We answer your questions," 27 Feb. 2021 Both renters and homeowners can apply for energy assistance. Nicole Norfleet, Star Tribune, "Minnesota Department of Commerce doubles crisis benefits to help heat homes," 27 Feb. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'apply.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of apply

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for apply

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about apply

Time Traveler for apply

Time Traveler

The first known use of apply was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for apply

Last Updated

5 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Apply.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for apply



English Language Learners 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


ap·​ply | \ ə-ˈplī How to pronounce apply (audio) \
applied; applying

Kids Definition of apply

1 : to request especially in writing apply for a job
2 : to lay or spread on apply a coat of paint
3 : to place in contact apply heat
4 : to have relation or a connection This law applies to everyone.
5 : to put to use I applied my knowledge.
6 : to give full attention I applied myself to my work.
ap·​ply | \ ə-ˈplī How to pronounce apply (audio) \
applied; applying

Medical Definition of apply

: to lay or spread on apply antiseptic to a cut

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on apply

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for apply

Nglish: Translation of apply for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of apply for Arabic Speakers

Comments on apply

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Who Knew?

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!