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

Definition of infer

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
3a : 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

Other Words from infer

inferable or less commonly inferrible \ in-​ˈfər-​ə-​bəl How to pronounce infer (audio) \ adjective
inferrer \ in-​ˈfər-​ər How to pronounce infer (audio) \ noun

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

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 infer in a Sentence

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 Human rights advocates say the extended genocide investigation should not infer with broader efforts to hold Russia responsible. Washington Post, 13 Apr. 2022 The heart of the W boson experiment is a cylindrical chamber packed with 30,000 high-voltage wires that react when a muon or electron flies through them, allowing the CDF researchers to infer the particle’s path and speed. Charlie Wood, Quanta Magazine, 7 Apr. 2022 To suggest the difference between work and home, Gagné explains that lighting outside the Lumon sets would be less harsh and infer the characters’ choices. Jazz Tangcay, Variety, 7 Apr. 2022 This means that by better understanding how this one species is doing, researchers can infer a lot more about the overall health of the coastal Florida ecosystem. Ashleigh Papp, Scientific American, 30 Mar. 2022 This could allow the adversary to extract private data, gather information on used skills, and infer user habits. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, 6 Mar. 2022 Through the four episodes, we’re supposed to infer her ulterior motives and machinations, without seeing much of anything in action. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Mar. 2022 If coupled with data about body temperature or heart rate from a smart watch, the information could be used to try to infer a worker’s emotional state, says Kurt Opsahl, general counsel of privacy-watchdog group Electronic Frontier Foundation. Sarah E. Needleman, WSJ, 7 Feb. 2022 Social media blitzes against France and democracy in Mali, laced with pro-Moscow messages, went viral, leading researchers to infer that disinformation campaigns propelled public discontent. Washington Post, 16 Jan. 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.

First Known Use of infer

1528, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for 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

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Last Updated

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Infer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for infer


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

Kids Definition of infer

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?


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

Legal Definition of infer

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

Other Words from infer

inferable also inferrible \ in-​ˈfər-​ə-​bəl How to pronounce infer (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on infer

Nglish: Translation of infer for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of infer for Arabic Speakers


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