verb im·ply \ im-ˈplī \
|Updated on: 13 Aug 2018

Definition of imply

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

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

  1. Early reports implied that the judge's death was not an accident.

  2. His words implied a threat.

  3. War implies fighting and death.

Recent Examples of imply from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of imply

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

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


verb im·ply \ im-ˈplī \

Definition of imply for Students

implied; implying
: to express indirectly : suggest rather than say plainly Your remark implies that I am wrong.

Law Dictionary


transitive verb im·ply \ im-ˈplī \

legal Definition of imply

implied; implying
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

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very hard to disturb or upset

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