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

transitive verb

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

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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Pollsters will not knowingly imply that interpretations are accorded greater confidence than the data warrants. Mary Radcliffe, ABC News, 27 Nov. 2023 If there is an absolute standard of rest, then going faster than light no longer immediately implies the ability to go back in time. Jennifer Ouellette and Sean M. Carroll, Ars Technica, 24 Nov. 2023 As its name implies, the saucier pan is ideal for making sauces but can also be used to saute vegetables or make side dishes. Michelle Love, Better Homes & Gardens, 20 Nov. 2023 Boring Company was last valued at $5.6 billion in 2022, though a tender offer recently reported in The Information now implies a valuation of more than $7 billion. Byjessica Mathews, Fortune, 20 Nov. 2023 Water chestnuts, as the name might imply, are aquatic vegetables that are a bit sweet and nutty. Southern Living Test Kitchen, Southern Living, 20 Nov. 2023 The movie’s dramatic framework is bound up tightly and sealed off, and Haynes doesn’t puncture or fracture it to let in the wealth of details that the story implies—of art and money, power and presumption. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 14 Nov. 2023 Market pricing now implies an effective fed-funds rate of 4.5% by the end of next year, versus 5.33% now. Eric Wallerstein, WSJ, 14 Nov. 2023 But in making these observations, experts sometimes imply that AI requires a wholly novel approach to governance – which just isn’t true. Paula Goldman, Foreign Affairs, 13 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English implien, emplien "to enfold, surround, entangle, involve by inference, contain implicitly," borrowed from Anglo-French emplier, implier "to involve by inference, entail," probably adaptation of emplier (variant of empleier, emploier "to entangle, put to use, employ entry 1") as a vernacular equivalent of Medieval Latin implicāre "to imply, mean by implication," modeled on parallel verbs in Middle English, as applien "to apply," replien "to reply entry 1" and their correspondents in Anglo-French — more at implicate

Note: The genesis of this verb is idiosyncratic, as it has no correspondent in continental French, and even the Anglo-French examples are—to judge by citations in the Anglo-Norman Dictionary—later than the Middle English examples, which are not much earlier than the fifteenth century. Middle French has impliquer as an adaptation of Latin implicāre, but this method of creating vernacular forms of verbs in -plicāre, though common in French, gained little traction in English. Note late and rare Middle English appliquen "to apply" (from Anglo-French and Middle French appliquer), for which the Oxford English Dictionary has no evidence past the sixteenth century.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

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

Dictionary Entries Near imply

Cite this Entry

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

Kids Definition


im·​ply im-ˈplī How to pronounce imply (audio)
implied; implying
: to include or involve as a natural or necessary part even though not put clearly into words
rights imply obligations
an implied warranty
: to express indirectly : suggest rather than say plainly
your remark implies that I am wrong

Legal Definition


transitive verb
im·​ply im-ˈplī How to pronounce imply (audio)
implied; implying
: 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)
: to make known indirectly

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