iden·​ti·​fy | \ ī-ˈden-tə-ˌfī How to pronounce identify (audio) , ə- \
identified; identifying; identifies

Definition of identify

transitive verb

1a : to perceive or state the identity of (someone or something) "It's the young man!" I thought, feeling my heart shoot as I identified him.— Charlies Dickens Mr. Mace identified the phial handed him by Counsel as that sold by him to "Mr. Inglethorp."— Agatha Christie Hitters say the spitball is easily identified because, while it has the speed of a fastball, it scarcely rotates.— Ron Fimrite
b(1) : to ascertain the identity of (someone or something that is unfamiliar or unknown) He was able to quickly identify the problem. Police have identified a person of interest. Dr. McGovern explains that "identifying the cause of the disease is a breakthrough. …"The Chronicle of the Horse
(2) : to determine the taxonomic position or category of (a biological specimen) We were able to identify the plant as belonging to the nightshade family.
2a : to conceive as united (as in spirit, outlook, or principle) These groups are identified with conservation.
b : to cause to be or become identical identified her interests with theirs Sometimes people identify success with money, but for me it's giving of yourself.— Lorna E. Barnes In some strange way the boat became identified with himself, and just as it would have been useless for him to get up and steer the boat, so was it useless for him to struggle any longer with the irresistible force of his own feelings.— Virginia Woolf

intransitive verb

1 : to feel a sense of unity (as of interests, purpose, or effect) and close emotional association : to engage in psychological identification Many readers identify with the hero of a novel. I could identify with the anxiety she was experiencing.
2 : to have or assert an identity of a specified kind Of the high school students who participated, 77% identified as female, 20% identified as male, 2% identified as nonbinary …— Elizabeth Beyer
3 archaic : to be or become the same … new channels of communication will be opened between the States, the lines of separation will disappear, their interests will be identified, and their union cemented by new and indissoluble bonds.— Thomas Jefferson

Examples of identify in a Sentence

She identified the dog as her lost pet. He was able to correctly identify the mushroom. The witness positively identified the suspect in the crime. The corpse was identified on the basis of dental records. They could not identify the source of the quotation. They had no difficulty in identifying the problem. We began by identifying what we needed for the job. We need to identify the causes of unemployment. See More
Recent Examples on the Web The Clark County coroner did not immediately identify the slain man. Ken Ritter, ajc, 5 Aug. 2022 USA TODAY Sports does not identify victims of domestic violence without their permission. Tom Schad, USA TODAY, 5 Aug. 2022 The police chief did not identify the victim or the suspect. Sophie Reardon, CBS News, 4 Aug. 2022 The official, who court documents didn’t identify, was Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, her office confirmed. Alexa Corse, WSJ, 3 Aug. 2022 Police did not identify either the victim or the suspect. Chantal Da Silva, NBC News, 2 Aug. 2022 Otero did not identify those killed or give their ages, saying their relatives still need to be informed. Amanda Rabines, Orlando Sentinel, 2 Aug. 2022 Police didn't identify the cyclists but said the five men were all from the east side of the state and were participating in a charity ride for the Make-A-Wish Michigan group based in Brighton. Eve Sampson, Detroit Free Press, 31 July 2022 Police did not identify what the man was attempting to sell. Greg Moran, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 July 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of identify

1746, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Time Traveler for identify

Time Traveler

The first known use of identify was in 1746

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Dictionary Entries Near identify



identifying mark/feature

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Statistics for identify

Last Updated

8 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Identify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for identify


iden·​ti·​fy | \ ī-ˈden-tə-ˌfī How to pronounce identify (audio) \
identified; identifying

Kids Definition of identify

1 : to find out or show the identity of … they ate … a mystery casserole that I could not identify.— Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons
2 : to feel empathy for I identified with her problem.
3 : to think of as joined or associated with These groups are identified with conservation.


iden·​ti·​fy | \ ī-ˈdent-ə-ˌfī, ə- How to pronounce identify (audio) \
identified; identifying

Medical Definition of identify

transitive verb

: to determine the taxonomic position of (a biological specimen)

intransitive verb

: to undergo or experience psychological identification identify with the hero of a novel


transitive verb
identified; identifying

Legal Definition of identify

1 : to consider as united or associated (as in interests or principles) can ask leading questions of a witness who is identified with an adverse party
2 : to establish the identity of identifying the suspect
3 : to specify or designate (goods) as the object of a contract used in the phrase identify to the contract the disputed beans were goods identified to the contract

Note: Under the Uniform Commercial Code, once goods are identified to a contract, the buyer has a special property interest and an insurable interest in the goods. This gives the buyer the right to seek damages and other relief. This identification can be done at any time and in any manner agreed to by the parties or as otherwise specified in the U.C.C.

Other Words from identify

identifiable adjective
identification noun

More from Merriam-Webster on identify

Nglish: Translation of identify for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of identify for Arabic Speakers


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