justify

verb
jus·​ti·​fy | \ ˈjə-stə-ˌfī How to pronounce justify (audio) \
justified; justifying

Definition of justify

transitive verb

1a : to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable trying to justify his selfish behavior I shouldn't have to justify myself to them. justify the ways of God to man— John Milton
b(1) : to show to have had a sufficient legal reason
(2) : to qualify (oneself) as a surety (see surety sense 3) by taking oath to the ownership of sufficient property
2a : to judge, regard, or treat as righteous and worthy of salvation God justifies with his forgiveness and grace the man who comes to him— Will Herberg
b archaic : to administer justice to
c archaic : absolve
3a : to space (lines of text) so that the lines come out even at the margin
b : to make even by spacing lines of text justified margins

intransitive verb

1a : to show a sufficient lawful reason for an act done
b : to qualify as bail or surety the surety justified on the bail bond
2 : to justify lines of text

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from justify

justifier \ ˈjə-​stə-​ˌfī(-​ə)r How to pronounce justifier (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for justify

Synonyms

excuse

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for justify

maintain, assert, defend, vindicate, justify mean to uphold as true, right, just, or reasonable. maintain stresses firmness of conviction. steadfastly maintained his innocence assert suggests determination to make others accept one's claim. asserted her rights defend implies maintaining in the face of attack or criticism. defended his voting record vindicate implies successfully defending. his success vindicated our faith in him justify implies showing to be true, just, or valid by appeal to a standard or to precedent. the action was used to justify military intervention

Examples of justify in a Sentence

He tried to justify his behavior by saying that he was being pressured unfairly by his boss. The fact that we are at war does not justify treating innocent people as criminals.

Recent Examples on the Web

So is justifying the full-freight cost of some private institutions. Adam Harris, The Atlantic, "Are Small Private Colleges Worth the Money?," 2 July 2019 The police say the use of force was justified, but since then have largely adopted softer tactics, even as protesters besieged police headquarters in recent days, pelting it with eggs and spray-painting slogans on its outer walls. Ken Moritsugu, Anchorage Daily News, "Hong Kong police clear protesters who occupied legislative building on handover anniversary," 1 July 2019 Which leads us to a third narrative/politics conundrum, which is that the exposé is a genre that must justify itself. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Exposé Entertainment Is the Surprise Hit of the Summer," 13 June 2019 Then the second step is finding an emotional hook that justifies that storytelling. Thomas Floyd, Washington Post, "’BoJack Horseman’s’ Raphael Bob-Waksberg turns his brain to the heart," 12 June 2019 Some say that running a larger prevention trial of teplizumab could be challenging, because giving young people a placebo might be hard to justify now. Jennifer Couzin-frankel, Science | AAAS, "In milestone trial, experimental drug delays type 1 diabetes," 9 June 2019 The circumstances that justified initially granting the Transitional Military Council the benefit of the doubt have vanished with the deadly breakdown. Adem K Abebe, Quartz Africa, "In Sudan, the African Union reminds us it still has a key role in tackling the continent’s crises," 7 June 2019 Mayor Kenney, Police Commissioner Richard Ross, and Philadelphia’s other leaders can’t justify giving the power to deprive humans of their freedom to officers who saw them as less than human. Will Bunch, https://www.inquirer.com, "‘When They See Us,’ racist Philly cops on Facebook, and the brutal toll of dehumanization | Will Bunch," 4 June 2019 Those fears appear to be justified, as this week GOG announced Telltale’s entire oeuvre will disappear on May 27, including The Wolf Among Us, Batman, Puzzle Agent, and Tales From the Borderlands. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "This week in games: Sims 4 for free, a Just Cause film, and Frostbite's hairy tech demo," 24 May 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of justify

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for justify

Middle English justifien, from Anglo-French or Late Latin; Anglo-French justifier, from Late Latin justificare, from Latin justus — see just entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about justify

Statistics for justify

Last Updated

7 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for justify

The first known use of justify was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for justify

justify

verb

English Language Learners Definition of justify

: to provide or be a good reason for (something) : to prove or show (something) to be just, right, or reasonable
: to provide a good reason for the actions of (someone)
technical : to position (text) so that the edges form a straight line

justify

verb
jus·​ti·​fy | \ ˈjəs-tə-ˌfī How to pronounce justify (audio) \
justified; justifying

Kids Definition of justify

: to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable How can you justify your actions?

Other Words from justify

justifiable \ -​ə-​bəl \ adjective
justifiably \ -​blē \ adverb

justify

verb
jus·​ti·​fy | \ ˈjəs-tə-ˌfī How to pronounce justify (audio) \
justified; justifying

Legal Definition of justify

transitive verb

1 : to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable does not justify a denial of bail
2 : to show to have had a legally sufficient reason or cause a defendant may not set up his own standard of conduct to justify or excuse himselfState v. Doss, 568 P.2d 1054 (1977)

intransitive verb

1 : to show a legally sufficient reason for an act
2 : to swear an oath as to the ownership of sufficient property they shall justify in an amount no less than $200Oregon Revised Statutes also : to qualify as a surety by swearing such an oath the defendants sought to justify as bail State v. Blaisdell, 253 A.2d 341 (1969)

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on justify

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with justify

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for justify

Spanish Central: Translation of justify

Nglish: Translation of justify for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of justify for Arabic Speakers

Comments on justify

What made you want to look up justify? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to form ideas or theories about something

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!