verb (1)
de·​fer | \ di-ˈfər How to pronounce defer (audio) \
deferred; deferring

Definition of defer

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : put off, delay
2 : to postpone induction of (a person) into military service


verb (2)
deferred; deferring

Definition of defer (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to delegate to another he could defer his job to no one— J. A. Michener

intransitive verb

: to submit to another's wishes, opinion, or governance usually through deference or respect deferred to her father's wishes

Other Words from defer

Verb (1)

deferrer noun

Choose the Right Synonym for defer

Verb (1)

defer, postpone, suspend, stay mean to delay an action or proceeding. defer implies a deliberate putting off to a later time. deferred buying a car until spring postpone implies an intentional deferring usually to a definite time. the game is postponed until Saturday suspend implies temporary stoppage with an added suggestion of waiting until some condition is satisfied. business will be suspended while repairs are underway stay often suggests the stopping or checking by an intervening agency or authority. the governor stayed the execution

Verb (2)

yield, submit, capitulate, succumb, relent, defer mean to give way to someone or something that one can no longer resist. yield may apply to any sort or degree of giving way before force, argument, persuasion, or entreaty. yields too easily in any argument submit suggests full surrendering after resistance or conflict to the will or control of another. a repentant sinner vowing to submit to the will of God capitulate stresses the fact of ending all resistance and may imply either a coming to terms (as with an adversary) or hopelessness in the face of an irresistible opposing force. officials capitulated to the protesters' demands succumb implies weakness and helplessness to the one that gives way or an overwhelming power to the opposing force. a stage actor succumbing to the lure of Hollywood relent implies a yielding through pity or mercy by one who holds the upper hand. finally relented and let the children stay up late defer implies a voluntary yielding or submitting out of respect or reverence for or deference and affection toward another. I defer to your expertise in these matters

Did you know?

There are two words spelled defer in English. The other defer, which means "to delegate to another for determination or decision" or "to submit to another's wishes or opinion" (as in "I defer to your superior expertise"), is derived from the Latin verb deferre, meaning "to bring down." The defer we're featuring today is derived from Latin differre, which itself has several meanings including "to postpone" and "to differ." Not surprisingly, differre is also the source of our word differ, meaning "to be different."

Examples of defer in a Sentence

Verb (1) Backers say the arrangement will make patients more cost-conscious and judicious in their use of medical service, thus restraining health-cost increases; critics say it will cause patients to defer needed treatment and will be attractive only to younger, healthier workers. Wall Street Journal, 9 Jan. 2006 A far stronger signal came when the draft was revived, shortly before the United States entered World War II. Although married men with families were eligible for induction, in many cases up to the age of forty, high school students were automatically deferred. — Thomas Hine, American Heritage, September 1999 The decision was deferred for a time. John didn't want to do anything drastic until after October … — Joe Klein, Payback, 1984 Verb (2) But in 1775, when William chose loyalty to empire over deference to his father, Franklin abruptly, angrily, and permanently broke with his son. Despite having defied his own father (in leaving Boston), Franklin pulled patriarchal rank to demand that his son defer to his politics: "there are natural duties which precede political ones, and cannot be extinguished by them." — Alan Taylor, New Republic, 13 Jan. 2003 Israelis can be harsh with each other, but they defer to the security guards who check their backpacks at the mall entrances. They put their faith in the Army. — David Brooks, Newsweek, 22 Oct. 2001
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Automakers including Ford and Toyota told the Associated Press to defer to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation for a statement on the proposal. Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY, 14 Apr. 2022 My advice is to not wait to take this opportunity to upgrade that property and defer any capital gains taxes that would come due as a result. Ari Chazanas, Forbes, 28 Dec. 2021 As a practical matter, in most cases, the record label will generally defer to artist interests so if an artist wants to pull down content, the label will usually comply. Elizabeth Moody, The Hollywood Reporter, 2 Mar. 2022 There isn’t much point in having a regulatory agency unless courts are going to defer to it. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 22 Mar. 2022 Truman was prone to defer to advisers who, operating without a playbook in a radically remade world, sometimes proceeded without contemplating the consequences of their actions. Washington Post, 11 Mar. 2022 After magical runs last March, USC’s Isaiah Mobley and UCLA’s Johnny Juzang chose to defer their NBA dreams for one last collegiate season. Ryan Kartje, Los Angeles Times, 8 Mar. 2022 On Monday, the league announced in a statement their decision to defer Ridley from at least throughout the 2022 season for placing bets on NFL games last year. Shafiq Najib,, 7 Mar. 2022 At least 1,500 of those students will be offered one of two options: to enroll online for the fall, or to defer their enrollment entirely until January 2023. Melissa Korn And Christine Mai-duc, WSJ, 3 Mar. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of defer

Verb (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for defer

Verb (1)

Middle English differren, deferren, borrowed from Anglo-French differer, borrowed (with conjugational change) from Latin differre "to carry away in varying directions, spread abroad, postpone, delay, be unlike or distinct" — more at differ

Note: The verb defer is not distinct etymologically from differ—see note at etymology of that entry. The spelling of the initial unstressed syllable as -e- was perhaps by association with delay entry 2.

Verb (2)

Middle English differen, deferen "to submit (a matter) for decision, submit to another's judgment," borrowed from Middle French deferer, deferrer "to bring (a defendant) before a court, submit to another's will," borrowed (with conjugation change) from Medieval Latin dēferre "to convey, show respect, submit to a decision" (Late Latin, "to pay respect to"), going back to Latin, "to bring down, convey, transfer, submit," from dē- de- + ferre "to carry, convey" — more at bear entry 2

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Last Updated

3 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Defer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for defer


de·​fer | \ di-ˈfər How to pronounce defer (audio) \
deferred; deferring

Kids Definition of defer

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to put off to a future time : postpone The test is deferred to next week.


deferred; deferring

Kids Definition of defer (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give in or yield to the opinion or wishes of another

More from Merriam-Webster on defer

Nglish: Translation of defer for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defer for Arabic Speakers


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