infer vs. imply
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.
Origin and Etymology of imply
Middle English emplien, from Anglo-French emplier to entangle — more at employ
First Known Use: 14th century
Synonym Discussion of imply
IMPLY Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of imply for English Language Learners
: 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
IMPLY Defined for Kids
Definition of imply for Students
: to express indirectly : suggest rather than say plainly <Your remark implies that I am wrong.>
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 care — Haase v. Starnes, 915 S.W.2d 675 (1996)>
2 : to make known indirectly
Seen and Heard
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