im·​ply | \ im-ˈplī How to pronounce imply (audio) \
implied; implying

Definition of imply

transitive verb

1 : to express indirectly Her remarks implied a threat. The news report seems to imply his death was not an accident.
2 : to involve or indicate by inference, association, or necessary consequence rather than by direct statement rights imply obligations
3 : to contain potentially
4 obsolete : enfold, entwine

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Choose the Right Synonym for imply

suggest, imply, hint, intimate, insinuate mean to convey an idea indirectly. suggest may stress putting into the mind by association of ideas, awakening of a desire, or initiating a train of thought. a film title that suggests its subject matter imply is close to suggest but may indicate a more definite or logical relation of the unexpressed idea to the expressed. measures implying that bankruptcy was imminent hint implies the use of slight or remote suggestion with a minimum of overt statement. hinted that she might get the job intimate stresses delicacy of suggestion without connoting any lack of candor. intimates that there is more to the situation than meets the eye insinuate applies to the conveying of a usually unpleasant idea in a sly underhanded manner. insinuated that there were shady dealings

Infer vs. Imply: Usage Guide

Sir Thomas More is the first writer known to have used both infer and imply in their approved senses in 1528 (with infer meaning "to deduce from facts" and imply meaning "to hint at"). He is also the first to have used infer in a sense close in meaning to imply (1533). Both of these uses of infer coexisted without comment until some time around the end of World War I. Since then, the "indicate" and "hint or suggest" meanings of infer have been frequently condemned as an undesirable blurring of a useful distinction. The actual blurring has been done by the commentators. The "indicate" sense of infer, descended from More's use of 1533, does not occur with a personal subject. When objections arose, they were to a use with a personal subject (which is now considered a use of the "suggest, hint" sense of infer). Since dictionaries did not recognize this use specifically, the objectors assumed that the "indicate" sense was the one they found illogical, even though it had been in respectable use for four centuries. The actual usage condemned was a spoken one never used in logical discourse. At present the condemned "suggest, hint" sense is found in print chiefly in letters to the editor and other informal prose, not in serious intellectual writing. The controversy over the "suggest, hint" sense has apparently reduced the frequency with which the "indicate" sense of infer is used.

Examples of imply in a Sentence

Early reports implied that the judge's death was not an accident. His words implied a threat. War implies fighting and death.
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Recent Examples on the Web Indeed, in response to this shortcoming, the field of economic epidemiology emerged decades ago to address how incentives drive disease occurrence and what those incentives imply for the effects and value of government intervention. Tomas J. Philipson, National Review, "The Vaccine Rollout and COVID Déjà Vu," 2 Apr. 2021 Researchers have also found fact-check labels on misinformation can erroneously imply that posts without labels have been vetted as true. Washington Post, "Twitter and Facebook warning labels aren’t enough to save democracy," 9 Nov. 2020 The development of the platforms that those imply will drive an enormous amount of jobs, wealth, huge new very large companies in the United States. CBS News, "Tech giant Eric Schmidt warns China is catching up to U.S. in A.I.," 21 Apr. 2021 Attorney Kim Foxx’s office on Thursday said the prosecutor should not have phrased it in a way that could imply Toledo was armed at the exact moment he was shot. Megan Crepeau,, "A day after stepping away from in-court description of Adam Toledo shooting, Cook County prosecutors mum on ‘error’," 16 Apr. 2021 Such phrases have become clichés and can unintentionally imply a personal attempt at regaining health different from others similarly afflicted. WSJ, "Vol. 34, No. 2: Immigration," 12 Mar. 2021 What this new performance does well is, among other things, imply the possibilities of a better, bluesier movie. K. Austin Collins, Rolling Stone, "‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ Fails to Take Into Account the Life of the Woman We Still Love," 26 Feb. 2021 Oldman has perhaps the most to work with, as his character wrestles with protecting his job and his research lab over the potential cost to human lives his findings might imply. Maureen Lee Lenker,, "The star-studded Crisis is a languid thriller with delusions of social consciousness: Review," 26 Feb. 2021 At first blush, such valuations—which imply Coinbase's worth has increased more than eight times in less than three years—seem extravagant. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "Coinbase is pegged for a valuation of up to $75 billion. Is that realistic?," 14 Jan. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'imply.' 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 imply

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for imply

Middle English emplien, from Anglo-French emplier to entangle — more at employ

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Time Traveler for imply

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for imply

Last Updated

7 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Imply.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for imply



English Language Learners Definition of imply

: to express (something) in an indirect way : to suggest (something) without saying or showing it plainly
: to include or involve (something) as a natural or necessary part or result


im·​ply | \ im-ˈplī How to pronounce imply (audio) \
implied; implying

Kids Definition of imply

: to express indirectly : suggest rather than say plainly Your remark implies that I am wrong.
im·​ply | \ im-ˈplī How to pronounce imply (audio) \
implied; implying

Legal Definition of imply

1 : to recognize as existing by inference or necessary consequence especially on legal or equitable grounds in ordinary circumstances…the law would imply that it was the duty of the hospital to use due careHaase v. Starnes, 915 S.W.2d 675 (1996)
2 : to make known indirectly

More from Merriam-Webster on imply

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for imply

Nglish: Translation of imply for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of imply for Arabic Speakers

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