con·​fer kən-ˈfər How to pronounce confer (audio)
conferred; conferring

intransitive verb

: to compare views or take counsel : consult

transitive verb

: to bestow from or as if from a position of superiority
conferred an honorary degree on her
knowing how to read was a gift conferred with manhoodMurray Kempton
: to give (something, such as a property or characteristic) to someone or something
a reputation for power will confer powerJohn Spanier
conferment noun
conferrable adjective
conferral noun
conferrer noun

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Confer vs. Consult

Confer and consult are very closely related in meaning, and each has senses that are synonymous with the other’s. But as is so often the case with near-synonyms, there are contexts in which one word is preferable to the other.

If you confer with someone, it is entirely possible that you will be seeking advice, but you could also simply be having a discussion (“they conferred privately before making a decision”). If you are consulting someone or something, it is more likely that you are seeking advice (“he consulted his doctor before deciding on a course of treatment”). Consult is unambiguously the correct choice when one is seeking guidance or information from a non-human source; you would consult (not confer with) a dictionary for information on a word.

The sense of confer that is concerned with giving something (as in, “education confers many benefits”) is not shared by consult.

Choose the Right Synonym for confer

give, present, donate, bestow, confer, afford mean to convey to another as a possession.

give, the general term, is applicable to any passing over of anything by any means.

give alms
gave her a ride on a pony
give my love to your mother

present carries a note of formality and ceremony.

present an award

donate is likely to imply a publicized giving (as to charity).

donate a piano to the orphanage

bestow implies the conveying of something as a gift and may suggest condescension on the part of the giver.

bestow unwanted advice

confer implies a gracious giving (as of a favor or honor).

confer an honorary degree

afford implies a giving or bestowing usually as a natural or legitimate consequence of the character of the giver.

the trees afford shade
a development that affords us some hope

Examples of confer in a Sentence

The cameleers … conferred with each other about the safest path across. Greg Child, Mixed Emotions: Mountaineering Writings of Greg Child, 1993
He liked the ease and glitter of the life, and the lustre conferred on him by being a member of this group of rich and conspicuous people. Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, 1905
It was a traditional compliment to be whinged at by an Englishman. It was his way of saying he trusted you, he was conferring upon you the privilege of getting to know the real him. Margaret Atwood, New Yorker, 5 Mar.1990
The lawyer and judge conferred about the ruling. the British monarch continues to confer knighthood on those who are outstanding in their fields of endeavor
Recent Examples on the Web Money, with its universal trust and universal exchangeability, opens up options and confers power and independence. Ge Bai, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 The award was conferred during the festival’s closing ceremony by Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana and Pramod Sawant, chief minister of Goa. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 29 Nov. 2023 Suffering does not confer license to make other people suffer. Jacobina Martin, Washington Post, 21 Nov. 2023 Covid and flu shots can be safely given at the same time, and according to a small new study, doing so may even confer benefits. Aria Bendix, NBC News, 14 Nov. 2023 Calls confer the right to buy shares at a specific price, later in time. Gunjan Banerji, WSJ, 6 Nov. 2023 Collectively simulating upsetting or dangerous situations through scary play could confer similar benefits without the physical risk. Athena Aktipis, Scientific American, 1 Nov. 2023 In a statement, U-Va. President James E. Ryan said officials made the decision after conferring with counselors and Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley. Susan Svrluga, Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2023 The guide’s coveted one-, two-, and three-star award designations are regarded as the restaurant world’s highest honor, conferring status and fame on the restaurants that receive them. Sam Stone, Bon Appétit, 7 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


borrowed from Latin conferō, conferre "to bring or take, convey, bestow, bring together, unite," from con- con- + ferō, ferre "to carry, bear" — more at bear entry 2

First Known Use

circa 1500, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of confer was circa 1500

Dictionary Entries Near confer

Cite this Entry

“Confer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


con·​fer kən-ˈfər How to pronounce confer (audio)
conferred; conferring
: to compare views especially in studying a problem
confer with the committee
: to give or grant publicly
confer knighthood on him
conferment noun
conferrable adjective
conferral noun
conferrer noun

More from Merriam-Webster on confer

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