ed·​i·​fy | \ ˈe-də-ˌfī How to pronounce edify (audio) \
edified; edifying

Definition of edify

transitive verb

1 : to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge : uplift also : enlighten, inform
2 archaic
a : build
b : establish

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Edify Has Latin Roots

The Latin noun aedes, meaning "house" or "temple," is the root of aedificare, a verb meaning "to erect a house." Generations of speakers built on that meaning, and by the Late Latin period, the verb had gained the figurative sense of "to instruct or improve spiritually." The word eventually passed through Anglo-French before Middle English speakers adopted it as edify during the 14th century. Two of its early meanings, "to build" and "to establish," are now considered archaic; the only current sense of edify is essentially the same as that figurative meaning in Late Latin, "to instruct and improve in moral and religious knowledge."

Examples of edify in a Sentence

These books will both entertain and edify readers. a family-oriented show that tried to edify the television audience as well as entertain it
Recent Examples on the Web Zimmer sprinkles his book with stories that both dazzle and edify the reader. New York Times, "What Does It Mean to Be a Living Thing?," 24 Mar. 2021 Gossip helps edify listeners by determining what is and isn’t acceptable, and who has violated social conventions and decorum. Amy Collier, The New Yorker, "How Dating During a Pandemic Is Like Being in a Jane Austen Novel," 4 Dec. 2020 Some women, such as educator Catharine Beecher, argued that women deserved rights because of their morality—as they were uniquely positioned to edify and enlighten men—not their humanity. Erin Blakemore, National Geographic, "'Women's Rights are Human Rights,' 25 years on," 15 Sep. 2020 His music, like that of others but more than most, can edify, elevate and inspire in its intelligence, its endless inventiveness and its understated emotion. James R. Oestreich, New York Times, "Bach in My Heart, and My Heart in His Hands," 9 Apr. 2020 That’s not to say that the ensuing conversation would have been edifying. New York Times, "Should I Speak Up About a Worker’s Confederate Battle Flag?," 19 Feb. 2020 So be intentional about edifying your mind, body, and spirit. Ashley Mcdonough, Essence, "Laid Off? On Forced Funemployment? Now Is The Time To Reset," 12 Nov. 2019 At a time when Britain is fighting rising Islamophobia, the outpouring of affection for an Egyptian-national superstar who is proud and public about his Muslim faith has been edifying. Grant Wahl, SI.com, "After Remarkable Rise, Mohamed Salah Shoulders Egypt's World Cup Hopes," 29 May 2018 Architecture to me is successful when the community is empowered by it, is edified by it, and is elevated by it. Steven Litt, cleveland.com, "Q&A with David Adjaye, designer of Smithsonian's African American museum," 13 May 2018

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

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First Known Use of edify

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for edify

Middle English, from Anglo-French edifier, from Late Latin & Latin; Late Latin aedificare to instruct or improve spiritually, from Latin, to erect a house, from aedes temple, house; akin to Old English ād funeral pyre, Latin aestas summer

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Time Traveler for edify

Time Traveler

The first known use of edify was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

9 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Edify.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/edify. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for edify



English Language Learners Definition of edify

: to teach (someone) in a way that improves the mind or character

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More from Merriam-Webster on edify

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for edify

Nglish: Translation of edify for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of edify for Arabic Speakers

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