infer

verb

in·​fer in-ˈfər How to pronounce infer (audio)
inferred; inferring

transitive verb

1
: to derive as a conclusion from facts or premises
we see smoke and infer fire L. A. White
compare imply
2
: guess, surmise
your letter … allows me to infer that you are as well as ever O. W. Holmes †1935
3
a
: to involve as a normal outcome of thought
b
: to point out : indicate
this doth infer the zeal I had to see him William Shakespeare
another survey … infers that two-thirds of all present computer installations are not paying for themselves H. R. Chellman
4
: suggest, hint
are you inferring I'm incompetent?

intransitive verb

: to draw inferences
men … have observed, inferred, and reasoned … to all kinds of results John Dewey
inferable adjective
or less commonly inferrible
inferrer noun
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.

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Choose the Right Synonym for infer

infer, deduce, conclude, judge, gather mean to arrive at a mental conclusion.

infer implies arriving at a conclusion by reasoning from evidence; if the evidence is slight, the term comes close to surmise.

from that remark, I inferred that they knew each other

deduce often adds to infer the special implication of drawing a particular inference from a generalization.

denied we could deduce anything important from human mortality

conclude implies arriving at a necessary inference at the end of a chain of reasoning.

concluded that only the accused could be guilty

judge stresses a weighing of the evidence on which a conclusion is based.

judge people by their actions

gather suggests an intuitive forming of a conclusion from implications.

gathered their desire to be alone without a word

Example Sentences

May I remark here that although I seem to infer that private communication is an unholy mess of grammatical barbarism,  … such is not my intent … V. Louise Higgins, "Approaching Usage in the Classroom," English JournalMarch 1960 … I infer that Swinburne found an adequate outlet for the creative impulse in his poetry … T. S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood, 1920 Lucy … reseated herself with an alacrity and cheerfulness which seemed to infer that she could taste no greater delight … Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, 1811 It's difficult to infer how these changes will affect ordinary citizens. Are you inferring that I'm wrong?
Recent Examples on the Web In his email to CBS News, Esteller said the research means facial features could potentially be used to infer the presence of genetic mutations that could cause diseases like diabetes or Alzheimer's. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, 29 Aug. 2022 Data that might be used to infer a sensitive piece of information about a person is also sensitive, the court said. Catherine Stupp, WSJ, 10 Aug. 2022 Amphibians and human brains Adding amphibians to the evolutionary puzzle allows researchers to infer how the brain and its cell types has changed over time, as well as the mechanisms behind regeneration. Ashley Maynard, The Conversation, 1 Sep. 2022 The only way astronomers have been able to infer its presence is via its interaction with gravity. Robert Lea, Popular Mechanics, 29 July 2022 The jets are one way astronomers can indirectly infer the presence of a black hole. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 13 July 2022 In a criminal case, jurors cannot infer anything from a defendant’s refusal to testify, but that does not hold true for civil cases. New York Times, 8 June 2022 Paleontologists can infer the existence of legs based on sockets in some species’ outer shells and trace impressions. Joanna Thompson, Scientific American, 3 June 2022 And these signs only allow researchers to infer the state of consciousness based on outside measurements. Leonardo De Cosmo, Scientific American, 12 July 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'infer.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Middle French or Latin; Middle French inferer, from Latin inferre, literally, to carry or bring into, from in- + ferre to carry — more at bear

First Known Use

1528, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of infer was in 1528

Dictionary Entries Near infer

Cite this Entry

“Infer.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/infer. Accessed 5 Oct. 2022.

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Kids Definition

infer

verb

in·​fer in-ˈfər How to pronounce infer (audio)
inferred; inferring
1
: to arrive at as a conclusion based on known facts
I inferred he was sick from his cough.
2
: guess entry 1 sense 1
From the look on her face, I inferred she was lying.
3
: hint entry 2, suggest Are you inferring I'm guilty?

Legal Definition

infer

verb

in·​fer in-ˈfər How to pronounce infer (audio)
inferred; inferring

transitive verb

: to derive as a conclusion from facts or premises
could infer acceptance of the offer from the offeree's response

intransitive verb

: to draw inferences

More from Merriam-Webster on infer

Last Updated: 16 Sep 2022

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