im·ply | \im-ˈplī \
implied; implying

Definition of imply 

transitive verb

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.

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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

When New Yorker fact-checker Talia Lavin posted a series of photos on Twitter mistakenly implying that an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent had a Nazi tattoo, she was quickly informed of her error. Gabriella Paiella, The Cut, "New Yorker Fact-Checker Resigns After Fallout Over ICE Tweet," 25 June 2018 But the catalytic evil of the park has turned out to be something far less futuristic than the show’s premise would imply. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "Westworld’s Real Villain Has Always Been Its Privacy Policy," 24 June 2018 The existence of such a gene would imply that an ancestor would have had it but the non-modulating species would have lost it along the way. Diana Gitig, Ars Technica, "Plants repeatedly got rid of their ability to obtain their own nitrogen," 27 May 2018 As his name implies, his preferred method of killing people is to lure them into Murderworld, an amusement park full of deathtraps that are built out of stuff like giant pinball machines and roller coasters. Chris Sims, The Verge, "Domino deserves a spinoff film, and there are amazing comic stories to mine," 24 May 2018 Take out a credit-builder loan As the name implies, credit-builder loans are designed to help people boost credit. Maurie Backman, USA TODAY, "3 ways to build credit without a credit card," 8 May 2018 As the name implies June-bearing plants produce berries primarily in June; everbearing in early summer and fall with not much in between; and day neutral yield all summer except during very hot periods when temperatures get above 90. Kym Pokorny,, "What you need to know to grow your own Oregon strawberries," 8 May 2018 The timing, as the groans of journalists in the F8 audience implied, seems off. Maya Kosoff, The Hive, "Mark Zuckerberg Unveils Facebook 2.0," 2 May 2018 Gerber herself seems to have loved the look, posting several shots of herself on Instagram with captions implying the moment was a dream come true for her. Marci Robin, Allure, "Kaia Gerber Wore the Most Voluminous Hair Ever on the Valentino Couture Runway," 6 July 2018

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 1

History and Etymology for imply

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

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Statistics for imply

Last Updated

8 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for imply

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

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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 \
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 \
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

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Comments on imply

What made you want to look up imply? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not any or not one

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