verb con·fer \ kən-ˈfər \
|Updated on: 13 Aug 2018

Definition of confer

conferred; conferring
: to compare views or take counsel : consult
1 : 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 manhood
  • —Murray Kempton
2 : to give (something, such as a property or characteristic) to someone or something
  • a reputation for power will confer power
  • —John Spanier


play \kən-ˈfər-mənt\ noun


play \kən-ˈfər-ə-bəl\ adjective


play \kən-ˈfər-əl\ noun


play \kən-ˈfər-ər\ noun

Examples of confer in a Sentence

  1. The cameleers … conferred with each other about the safest path across. —Greg ChildMixed Emotions: Mountaineering Writings of Greg Child1993
  2. 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 WhartonThe House of Mirth1905
  3. 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 AtwoodNew Yorker5 Mar.1990
  4. The lawyer and judge conferred about the ruling.

  5. the British monarch continues to confer knighthood on those who are outstanding in their fields of endeavor

Recent Examples of confer from the Web

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

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.

Origin and Etymology of confer

Latin conferre to bring together, from com- + ferre to carry — more at bear

Synonym Discussion of 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

CONFER Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of confer for English Language Learners

  • : to discuss something important in order to make a decision

  • : to give (something, such as a degree, award, title, right, etc.) to someone or something

CONFER Defined for Kids


verb con·fer \ kən-ˈfər \

Definition of confer for Students

conferred; conferring
1 : bestow, present
  • Many honors were conferred upon her at graduation.
2 : to compare views especially in studying a problem
  • The umpires decided to confer with one another.

Word Root of confer

The Latin word ferre, meaning “to carry” or “to bring,” gives us the root fer. Words from the Latin ferre have something to do with carrying. To transfer is to carry across from one person, place, or condition to another. To confer is to bring something to someone in order to present it. To offer is to bring forth for another to accept or reject. To prefer is to carry a stronger liking for one over another.

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