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

Example Sentences

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 Annette Vee, an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh who studies the intersection of computation and writing, watched a demonstration in which the new model was told to identify what was funny about a humorous image. Sophie Bushwick, Scientific American, 16 Mar. 2023 Gain: Edge rushers Jordan Burch, Matayo Uiagalelei Oregon has to identify more pass rushers after back-to-back dreadful seasons getting to the passer. oregonlive, 16 Mar. 2023 Hobbs's lawyers wrote that the state does not have a contract for a pharmacist to compound the pentobarbital needed for an execution at the moment, and corrections officials are not able to identify the state's previous compounding pharmacist. Elizabeth Pritchett, Fox News, 16 Mar. 2023 The woman in the car was unable to identify any suspects, the reviewers said. Dennis Romero, NBC News, 15 Mar. 2023 The official declined to identify the members by name. Dino Grandoni, Anchorage Daily News, 15 Mar. 2023 Staying true to what works Clinicians, researchers and leaders have been trying to identify the best treatment for depression for at least two decades. Jay Kayser, The Conversation, 15 Mar. 2023 Following a series of close calls involving commercial flights, aviation leaders met Wednesday to discuss the incidents and work to identify patterns and factors fueling risks to the industry. Amanda Maile, ABC News, 15 Mar. 2023 Local authorities used security footage from outside the apartments to identify Camacho's car and worked with the FBI to eventually track the girl's location to a shed on a property about an hour outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. Michael Murney, Chron, 15 Mar. 2023 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.

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 24 Mar. 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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