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

transitive verb

: 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
: 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
: to determine the taxonomic position or category of (a biological specimen)
We were able to identify the plant as belonging to the nightshade family.
: to conceive as united (as in spirit, outlook, or principle)
These groups are identified with conservation.
: 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

: 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.
: 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
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 challenge lies in identifying and conveying the right data that captures and effectively translates the essence of risk. Paul Ponzeka, Forbes, 29 Nov. 2023 The process could still take multiple years, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Mark Gurman, Fortune, 29 Nov. 2023 Additionally, three main leaders were identified within the authors scanned on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — one leader on each platform. Larisha Paul, Rolling Stone, 29 Nov. 2023 Local reports identified the suspect as an Algerian man who had become an Irish citizen after living on welfare in the country for decades. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, 29 Nov. 2023 To assess the bonus credit’s impact, the researchers identified 4,729 projects, totaling over $352 billion, between 2018 and June 2023 that would have been or are currently eligible for it, including 713 post-IRA projects worth more than $101 billion. Brian Cheung, NBC News, 29 Nov. 2023 The inmate, identified only as W.W., exhibited sudden symptoms that included incoherence and the inability to stand, according to court filings by federal prosecutors. CBS News, 29 Nov. 2023 Carroll's organization fights this by providing educators with resources to give students the social tools to identify and dismantle those tropes and misconceptions in real time. Kiara Alfonseca, ABC News, 29 Nov. 2023 The Fulton County Medical Examiner identified the victim as 25-year-old Jotavious Favors, Atlanta’s 11 Alive News reported Thursday. Angel Saunders, Peoplemag, 17 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1746, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of identify was in 1746

Dictionary Entries Near identify

Cite this Entry

“Identify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


iden·​ti·​fy ī-ˈdent-ə-ˌfī How to pronounce identify (audio)
identified; identifying
: to think of as united (as in spirit or principle)
groups identified with conservation
: to find out or show the identity of
identified the dog as her lost pet
: to think of oneself as having the same problems and feelings as someone else
identify with a character in a story
identifiable adjective
identifiably adverb

Medical Definition


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

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

Legal Definition


transitive verb
identified; identifying
: 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
: to establish the identity of
identifying the suspect
: 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.

identifiable adjective
identification noun

More from Merriam-Webster on identify

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