justify

verb

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

transitive verb

1
a
: 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 manJohn 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
2
a
: to judge, regard, or treat as righteous and worthy of salvation
God justifies with his forgiveness and grace the man who comes to himWill Herberg
b
archaic : to administer justice to
c
archaic : absolve
3
a
: 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

1
a
: 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
justifier noun
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 The response and upcoming vote could launch the two branches into an election-year legal fight over the tapes, one in which the White House and Justice Department would be forced to justify handing over the transcripts to Congress and drawing a line on the audio recordings of the president. Robert Legare, CBS News, 16 May 2024 But support for Klein seemed to get only stronger in the Netherlands since Saturday’s bombshell announcement, thanks to a general belief, promoted by the Dutch public broadcaster, that Klein did not commit an offense large enough to justify the disqualification. Claire Moses, New York Times, 15 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for justify 

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

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near justify

Cite this Entry

“Justify.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/justify. Accessed 28 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

justify

verb
jus·​ti·​fy ˈjəs-tə-ˌfī How to pronounce justify (audio)
justified; justifying
1
: to prove or show to be just, right, legal, or reasonable
2
: to release from the guilt of sin
justifiable
ˈjəs-tə-ˌfī-ə-bəl
adjective
justifiably
-blē
adverb
justifier noun

Legal Definition

justify

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

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)

More from Merriam-Webster on justify

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