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ini·​tial i-ˈni-shəl How to pronounce initial (audio)
: of or relating to the beginning : incipient
his initial reaction
: placed at the beginning : first
the initial word of the verse
initialness noun


2 of 3


: the first letter of a name
initials plural : the first letter of each word in a full name
found that their initials were identical
: a large letter beginning a text or a division or paragraph
: anlage, precursor
specifically : a meristematic cell


3 of 3


initialed or initialled; initialing or initialling i-ˈni-sh(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce initial (audio)

transitive verb

: to affix an initial to
: to authenticate or give preliminary approval to by affixing the initials of an authorizing representative

Examples of initial in a Sentence

Adjective you've resolved my initial complaint, but now I have a new question Noun President Franklin D. Roosevelt's middle initial stood for “Delano.” She put her initials on each page of the contract. The initials F.D.R. stood for “Franklin Delano Roosevelt.” Verb She initialed each page of the contract.
Recent Examples on the Web
That initial group featured Coleman with Andrew Bishop on bass. Garret K. Woodward, Rolling Stone, 18 Feb. 2024 By choosing a payout, winners are entitled to an initial payment followed by 29 annual payments. Nicholas Rice, Peoplemag, 18 Feb. 2024 The initial autopsy, conducted the day after Journey died, revealed abrasions on Journey’s face that appeared to be from scratching, but no significant trauma. Peter Hermann, Washington Post, 18 Feb. 2024 Its initial independent distributor, FUGA, took down the project on Feb. 15. Keith Caulfield, Billboard, 18 Feb. 2024 Currently, the government will pay for the initial freezing of reproductive cells. Svitlana Vaslova, CNN, 18 Feb. 2024 Nearly a quarter-century after his initial conquest, Schiff’s departure for a Senate run has opened the floodgates, with 15 people vying to replace him and represent a district that includes a wide swath of the city of Los Angeles, all of West Hollywood, Glendale and Burbank, and part of Pasadena. Julia Wick, Los Angeles Times, 18 Feb. 2024 The healing pilgrimage may have involved the patient making an initial offering in supplication, which might have included a vow to make another offering if a cure was obtained. Elizabeth Heath, Discover Magazine, 17 Feb. 2024 The standard in initial interviews would be raised, and many would receive those interviews within days of arriving at the border. Stephen Groves and Mary Clare Jalonick The Associated Press,, 6 Feb. 2024
One on her shoulder shows his initials over a broken heart framed by angel wings. Amy Qin, New York Times, 11 Feb. 2024 Now, on an even bigger stage at the Super Bowl, her initials on the team’s jerseys are a reminder of how her legacy endures. Faith Karimi, CNN, 7 Feb. 2024 Theo read about Joe Ray McDonald, a Wisconsin drifter who strangled and bludgeoned his prostitute victims, then dug his initials into their stomachs. Addie Citchens, The New Yorker, 5 Feb. 2024 Among the dead, researchers found gold necklaces and earrings, terracotta pottery, precious stones, coins, glasses, amulets and silver rings decorated with amber and engraved initials. Sonja Anderson, Smithsonian Magazine, 19 Jan. 2024 The Athletic identified that in each of those years, associate producers with identical initials to the show's on-air personalities were listed in the credits. Wesley Stenzel,, 11 Jan. 2024 The couple were pictured wearing custom 14K yellow gold tennis bracelets with their initials ‘TNT’ engraved on them. Escher Walcott, Peoplemag, 5 Feb. 2024 The report gives Bickle’s full name in the introduction and then mentions him by his initials throughout. Judy L. Thomas, Kansas City Star, 1 Feb. 2024 Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto is the creative director behind the five-year-old label, named Y-3 in reference to Yamamoto’s initial and the Adidas logo of three stripes. Miami Staff, Miami Herald, 30 Jan. 2024
In other words, a $7,500 tax credit was meaningless to initial Tesla buyers, but the quality of the car wasn’t. John Tamny, Forbes, 29 Nov. 2023 This surgeon worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham at the same time as Bramhall but before the initialing incidents. Will Self, Harper's Magazine, 12 Sep. 2022 The books draw heavily on Bramhall’s medical knowledge, but the one based on the initialing incident remains unpublished; its title is Letterman. Will Self, Harper's Magazine, 12 Sep. 2022 Simply use a zester to initial a lime wedge for each guest's drink. Sarah Martens, Better Homes & Gardens, 24 Oct. 2022 According to Shah, she was told to initial next to each relevant statement as Bastos read them aloud. Gabrielle Chung,, 16 June 2021 Leaders of the three countries met in 1992 in San Antonio, Texas, to initial the agreement. David Luhnow, WSJ, 4 June 2021 Value of those tools was initially set at around $500 total and police noted that they had been initialed by the owner. Thomas Jewell, cleveland, 15 Apr. 2020 The agreement was initialed and signed by Tully in March, but was not filed until April 7, according to online court records. Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star, 17 Apr. 2020 See More

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

Word History



Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French iniciel, from Latin initialis, from initium beginning, from inire to go into, from in- + ire to go — more at issue entry 1

First Known Use


1526, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1627, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1864, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of initial was in 1526

Dictionary Entries Near initial

Cite this Entry

“Initial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 adjective
ini·​tial in-ˈish-əl How to pronounce initial (audio)
: of, relating to, or existing at the beginning : earliest
initial stages of a disease
: placed or standing at the beginning : first
the initial letter of a word
initially adverb


2 of 3 noun
: a first letter of a name
: a large letter beginning a text or paragraph


3 of 3 verb
initialed or initialled; initialing or initialling -ˈish-(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce initial (audio)
: to mark with initials or an initial
initial a handkerchief

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