verb in·fer \ in-ˈfər \
|Updated on: 11 Aug 2018

Definition of infer

inferred; inferring
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?
: to draw inferences
  • men … have observed, inferred, and reasoned … to all kinds of results
  • —John Dewey


or less commonly inferrible play \in-ˈfər-ə-bəl\ adjective


play \in-ˈfər-ər\ noun

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 infer in a Sentence

  1. 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
  2. … I infer that Swinburne found an adequate outlet for the creative impulse in his poetry … —T. S. EliotThe Sacred Wood1920
  3. Lucy … reseated herself with an alacrity and cheerfulness which seemed to infer that she could taste no greater delight … —Jane AustenSense and Sensibility1811
  4. It's difficult to infer how these changes will affect ordinary citizens.

  5. Are you inferring that I'm wrong?

Recent Examples of infer from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of infer

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

INFER Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of infer for English Language Learners

  • : to form (an opinion) from evidence : to reach (a conclusion) based on known facts

  • : to hint or suggest (something)

INFER Defined for Kids


verb in·fer \ in-ˈfər \

Definition of infer for Students

inferred; inferring
1 : to arrive at as a conclusion based on known facts
  • I inferred he was sick from his cough.
2 : 1guess 1
  • From the look on her face, I inferred she was lying.
3 : 2hint, suggest Are you inferring I'm guilty?

Law Dictionary


verb in·fer \ in-ˈfər \

legal Definition of infer

inferred; inferring
: to derive as a conclusion from facts or premises
  • could infer acceptance of the offer from the offeree's response
: to draw inferences


also inferrible play \in-ˈfər-ə-bəl\ adjective

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