jus·ti·fy | \ ˈjə-stə-ˌfī \
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

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Other words from justify

justifier \ˈjə-stə-ˌfī(-ə)r \ noun

Synonyms for justify


defend, maintain, support, uphold

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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

Sitting courtside at the Thomas & Mack Center before the Kings’ Las Vegas Summer League game against the Suns, Divac told the Tribune that LaVine, 23, has star potential that justified the lucrative offer. Malika Andrews, chicagotribune.com, "Kings GM Vlade Divac on Zach Lavine: 'I see him as one of the future elite shooting guards'," 8 July 2018 Trump has previously clashed with Khan on Twitter, criticizing the mayor’s response to a deadly terrorist attack in London last June and using it to justify his travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries. Joseph Hincks, Time, "A Giant Inflatable 'Trump Baby' Will Fly Above London During the U.S. President's Visit," 6 July 2018 Ticket sales have been slow, however, perhaps an indication that Swift's audience is no longer growing at a rate that can justify trading arenas for 70,000-seat stadiums. Jeffrey Lee Puckett, The Courier-Journal, "Taylor Swift's 'Reputation' tour in Louisville promises to be epic," 26 June 2018 The United States is not suffering a crisis that justifies radical measures; the Central American families gathered at our border are. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "We Owe Central American Migrants Much More Than This," 21 June 2018 That, in turn, put paid to the PML-N’s hopes of passing legislation to scrap the woolly articles of the constitution that the courts had used to justify Mr Sharif’s dismissal. The Economist, "Pakistan’s army is using every trick to sideline Nawaz Sharif," 21 June 2018 If Sessions and Sanders are really intent on using a literal interpretation of the Bible to justify inhumane policy, The Handmaid’s Tale is a road map for how to do so. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "Gilead in America," 20 June 2018 Early on in his career studying psychology, Rust saw how IQ tests and other aptitude tests were being used to justify discrimination against people of different races, locking them out of academic and professional opportunities. Issie Lapowsky, WIRED, "The Man Who Saw the Dangers of Cambridge Analytica Years Ago," 19 June 2018 The Bible has been used to justify the oppression of other non-white people in America. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "Who Would Jesus Lock Up?," 15 June 2018

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.

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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

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Phrases Related to justify

justify oneself

the end justifies the means

Statistics for justify

Last Updated

1 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for justify

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

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More Definitions for justify



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)

: to position (text) so that the edges form a straight line


jus·ti·fy | \ ˈjəs-tə-ˌfī \
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


jus·ti·fy | \ ˈjəs-tə-ˌfī \
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)

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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).


to deposit or conceal in a hiding place

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