can·​di·​date ˈkan-də-ˌdāt How to pronounce candidate (audio)
: one that aspires to or is nominated or qualified for an office, membership, or award
a candidate for governor
a candidate for "Manager of the Year"
the best candidate for the job
: one likely or suited to undergo or be chosen for something specified
a candidate for surgery
: a student in the process of meeting final requirements for a degree
a PhD candidate

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Roman Fashion Is Responsible for Candidate

When a man running for public office in ancient Rome greeted voters in the Forum, the center of judicial and public business, he wore a toga that had been whitened with chalk. As a result, the Latin word for someone seeking office came to be candidatus, meaning literally "clothed in white." Candidatus, in turn, comes from the adjective candidus, meaning "white." Candidatus was adopted into English as candidate, and since the 17th century that word has had an uncontested seat in the language.

Examples of candidate in a Sentence

Candidates can apply in person or send a resume. a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics The program has several doctoral candidates.
Recent Examples on the Web One of the reasons why could be because they simply aren’t set up to evaluate candidates with unconventional backgrounds. Paolo Confino, Fortune, 12 May 2024 The political neophyte was a bumbling candidate who ran a terrible campaign. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 12 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for candidate 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'candidate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin candidatus, from candidatus clothed in white, from candidus white; from the white toga worn by candidates for office in ancient Rome

First Known Use

1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of candidate was in 1600


Dictionary Entries Near candidate

Cite this Entry

“Candidate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


can·​di·​date ˈkan-də-ˌdāt How to pronounce candidate (audio)
: one who runs in an election contest or is proposed for an office or honor

from Latin candidatus "candidate," from candidatus (adjective) "dressed in white," from candidus "shining white," from candēre "to be bright, shine" — related to candid, candle

Word Origin
In ancient Rome it was the custom for a person who wanted to be elected to public office to wear a toga that had been rubbed with chalk to make it white. The Latin word for "dressed in white" was candidatus. In time this word came to be used for the person himself, or the candidate. The Latin word candidatus came from candidus, meaning "bright, shining white." This in turn came from candēre, a verb meaning "to shine, be bright." Latin candēre has given us two other English words: candid, which at first meant "white, free from prejudice" but now usually means "honest, natural," and candle, the mass of wax with a wick that is burned to give off a bright light.

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