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.

Example Sentences

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 Doing so would have compromised the caucus’ mission to select the best qualified candidate to endorse. Chicago Tribune, 31 Jan. 2023 Haley would become the first Republican candidate to join former President Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary. Aaron Navarro, CBS News, 31 Jan. 2023 The researchers also found that for heterosexual men, antigay sentiments influenced their preference for a masculine-presenting gay candidate; meanwhile, sexism influenced both heterosexual and gay participants’ votes. Orianna Rosa Royle, Fortune, 31 Jan. 2023 As the law-and-order candidate, Reagan opposed the rise of campus radicalism. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, 30 Jan. 2023 The trip marked the first declared candidate making his first campaign swing through early primary states. Amy B Wang,, 29 Jan. 2023 Not one of these jobs has gone to a Black candidate. Greg Moore, The Arizona Republic, 29 Jan. 2023 The 2024 cycle has been churning for months, despite Trump operating as the single top-tier candidate participating. Max Thornberry, Washington Examiner, 28 Jan. 2023 In 2017, the female job candidate was selected by a hiring committee as the most qualified out of a pool of 20 candidates for a position leading the Wisconsin Emergency Management bureau of response and recovery, according to the complaint. Molly Beck, Journal Sentinel, 27 Jan. 2023 See More

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

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 5 Feb. 2023.

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

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