de·​rive di-ˈrīv How to pronounce derive (audio)
derived; deriving

transitive verb

: to take, receive, or obtain especially from a specified source
is said to derive its name from a Native American word meaning "wild onion"
chemistry : to obtain (a chemical substance) actually or theoretically from a parent substance
Petroleum is derived from coal tar.
: infer, deduce
what was derived from their observations
archaic : bring
… inconvenience that will be derived to them from stopping all imports …Thomas Jefferson
: to trace the derivation of
We can derive the word "chauffeur" from French.

intransitive verb

: to have or take origin : come as a derivative
The novel's appeal derives entirely from the complexity of its characters.
deriver noun
Choose the Right Synonym for derive

spring, arise, rise, originate, derive, flow, issue, emanate, proceed, stem mean to come up or out of something into existence.

spring implies rapid or sudden emerging.

an idea that springs to mind

arise and rise may both convey the fact of coming into existence or notice but rise often stresses gradual growth or ascent.

new questions have arisen
slowly rose to prominence

originate implies a definite source or starting point.

the fire originated in the basement

derive implies a prior existence in another form.

the holiday derives from an ancient Roman feast

flow adds to spring a suggestion of abundance or ease of inception.

words flowed easily from her pen

issue suggests emerging from confinement through an outlet.

blood issued from the cut

emanate applies to the coming of something immaterial (such as a thought) from a source.

reports emanating from the capital

proceed stresses place of origin, derivation, parentage, or logical cause.

advice that proceeds from the best of intentions

stem implies originating by dividing or branching off from something as an outgrowth or subordinate development.

industries stemming from space research

Example Sentences

The river derives its name from a Native American tribe. Much of the book's appeal derives from the personality of its central character.
Recent Examples on the Web My breakthrough was to realize that the prefix e-, which originally derived from an unknown word for an internal body part, had over eons morphed into a grammatical marker signifying any internal attribute, process or activity. Anvita Abbi, Scientific American, 16 May 2023 The vertebrae were initially found during excavations at Warren Farm in the River Thames Valley near Abingdon in Oxfordshire, and derive from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation, according to the study. Kristen Rogers, CNN, 16 May 2023 The lore around the creation of the plastic bag says that its inventor wanted to find a solution to the use of paper bags, which were obviously derived from cutting trees. Quartz Staff, Quartz, 16 May 2023 The Purely Organic Products fertilizer also contains potassium, which is responsible for healthy development of your lawn's roots.1 Instead of using synthetic substances to feed your yard, though, this fertilizer is derived from corn gluten meal, urea, and potassium acetate—all natural ingredients. Samantha Jones, Better Homes & Gardens, 15 May 2023 Some sources say the name is derived from the Latin simila, which means fine flour and is also the root of semolina. John Kelly, Washington Post, 13 May 2023 The proteins lysine and arginine work in combination with succinic acid and naturally derived guar to fortify curls and repair damage. Isabel Vasquez Rd Ldn, Health, 12 May 2023 Traditional album sales comprise 1,500 units, with the outstanding 500 deriving from track-equivalent album units. Trevor Anderson, Billboard, 11 May 2023 Corporations’ ability to put through price increases derives from more than consumer docility. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 10 May 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French deriver, from Latin derivare, literally, to draw off (water), from de- + rivus stream — more at run

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of derive was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near derive

Cite this Entry

“Derive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​rive di-ˈrīv How to pronounce derive (audio)
derived; deriving
: to receive or obtain from a source
: to arrive at by reasoning and observation : infer, deduce
: to trace the origin, descent, or derivation of
: to come from a certain source or basis
the tradition derives from ancient practices

Medical Definition


de·​rive di-ˈrīv How to pronounce derive (audio)
derived; deriving

transitive verb

: to take, receive, or obtain, especially from a specified source
specifically : to obtain (a chemical substance) actually or theoretically from a parent substance

intransitive verb

: to have or take origin
derivation noun

More from Merriam-Webster on derive

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