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in·​di·​vid·​u·​al ˌin-də-ˈvi-jə-wəl How to pronounce individual (audio)
: of, relating to, or distinctively associated with an individual
an individual effort
: intended for one person
an individual serving
: being an individual or existing as an indivisible whole
: having marked individuality
an individual style
: existing as a distinct entity : separate
obsolete : inseparable
individually adverb


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: a particular being or thing as distinguished from a class, species, or collection: such as
: a single human being as contrasted with a social group or institution
a teacher who works with individuals
: a single organism as distinguished from a group
: a particular person
are you the individual I spoke with on the telephone?
: an indivisible entity
: the reference of a name or variable of the lowest logical type in a calculus
Choose the Right Synonym for individual

special, especial, specific, particular, individual mean of or relating to one thing or class.

special stresses having a quality, character, identity, or use of its own.

special ingredients

especial may add implications of preeminence or preference.

a matter of especial importance

specific implies a quality or character distinguishing a kind or a species.

children with specific nutritional needs

particular stresses the distinctness of something as an individual.

a ballet step of particular difficulty

individual implies unequivocal reference to one of a class or group.

valued each individual opinion

characteristic, individual, peculiar, distinctive mean indicating a special quality or identity.

characteristic applies to something that distinguishes or identifies a person or thing or class.

responded with her characteristic wit

individual stresses qualities that distinguish one from all other members of the same kind or class.

a highly individual writing style

peculiar applies to qualities possessed only by a particular individual or class or kind and stresses rarity or uniqueness.

an eccentricity that is peculiar to the British

distinctive indicates qualities distinguishing and uncommon and often superior or praiseworthy.

a distinctive aura of grace and elegance

Examples of individual in a Sentence

Adjective What are the individual traits of the breed? The doctor carefully evaluates the individual needs of her patients. Students will receive as much individual attention as possible. She has a very individual style of writing. a pattern as individual as a fingerprint Noun They promote a philosophy that sacrifices the rights of the individual for the public welfare. They are both rather odd individuals. Are you the individual I spoke with on the telephone? She's a very talented individual. The markings on tigers are unique to each individual. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Each unit equals one album sale, or 10 individual tracks sold from an album, or 3,750 ad-supported or 1,250 paid/subscription on-demand official audio and video streams generated by songs from an album. Keith Caulfield, Billboard, 26 Nov. 2023 Couples who are trying to recover from infidelity will sometimes offer to surrender their individual privacy for a time to get back on track. Amy Dickinson, Washington Post, 26 Nov. 2023 Plus, individual products represent a sampling of editor favorites, including the Vogue Verified C E Ferulic that is widely viewed as the gold standard of vitamin C serums. Jenny Berg, Vogue, 26 Nov. 2023 With Payton Godsey of Oaks Christian ill, Chiara Dailey adjusts strategy and rolls to easy individual victory Facebook Show more sharing options FRESNO — Chiara Dailey had one goal — win a state cross country championship. Steve Brand, San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Nov. 2023 Etsy is a great marketplace filled with individual sellers. Medea Giordano, WIRED, 25 Nov. 2023 This ambiguity has led to a fractured and absurd enforcement, whereby individual police departments and prosecutors make judgment calls on how to classify discrete incidents. Jay Caspian Kang, The New Yorker, 25 Nov. 2023 To maximize the lifespan of your hoodie, plan to spot treat individual stains. Marissa Miller, Travel + Leisure, 21 Nov. 2023 Johnson argued that the plan would allow for the House to pass the rest of the individual spending bills and avoid a massive spending bill near Christmas. Rachel Scott, ABC News, 14 Nov. 2023
The sheriff’s office said all four individuals – two men and two women – sustained apparent gunshot wounds. Greg Wehner, Fox News, 27 Nov. 2023 As to their argument that more tax cuts should go to low-income individuals: refundable tax credits to people who don’t pay income tax is welfare, not a tax cut. WSJ, 26 Nov. 2023 If the results are positive, the company would then put the individual in contact with a physician. Benjamin Ryan, NBC News, 26 Nov. 2023 Footwear would have allowed individuals to move across new, unfamiliar terrain, protecting their feet from damage. Conor Feehly, Discover Magazine, 23 Nov. 2023 Of course, not every individual needs a turkey, so the number of households might be more helpful. Dominic Pino, National Review, 23 Nov. 2023 Ortega’s exit had required the creative team to make some alterations, according to individuals with knowledge, but there were still hopes that the actress might be convinced to come back for some sort of cameo. Matt Donnelly, Variety, 22 Nov. 2023 Changing the way individuals and society think about issues is typically a slow process, Michael Polenberg, vice president of Government Affairs at Safe Horizon, the largest victim services nonprofit organization in the U.S., told me. Alicia Adamczyk, Fortune, 22 Nov. 2023 In many cases, informed consent is obtained for neither the image uploaded nor the results that the technology returns, which can include the biometric data of private individuals. Deidre Olsen, WIRED, 15 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History



Medieval Latin individualis, from Latin individuus indivisible, from in- + dividuus divided, from dividere to divide

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of individual was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near individual

Cite this Entry

“Individual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
in·​di·​vid·​u·​al ˌin-də-ˈvij-(ə-)wəl How to pronounce individual (audio)
: of or relating to an individual
individual traits
: intended for one person
individual servings
: particular entry 1 sense 1, separate
individual copies
: having a special quality : distinct
an individual style


2 of 2 noun
: a single member of a class, species, or collection
: a single human being

More from Merriam-Webster on individual

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