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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from justify

justifier \ˈjə-stə-ˌfī(-ə)r \ noun

Synonyms for justify


defend, maintain, support, uphold

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

Its central characters, Governor Willie Stark and his aide Jack Burden, each make their own calculations of whether the ends justify the means - and whether their ends are just. Steve Israel, chicagotribune.com, "What's the greatest book about politics? Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and others weigh in.," 12 July 2018 The perception of drug addiction is still predicated on weakness, sin, and shame—all of which deserve punishment or justify exploitation. Josie Duffy Rice, The Atlantic, "The Gospel According to Pusha T," 12 July 2018 The installers advise villagers on irrigation, farming and marketing to help them develop businesses that require reliable electricity, which in turn justifies the expense of installation. The Economist, "Mini-grids could be a boon to poor people in Africa and Asia," 12 July 2018 This means each has added pressure to rapidly expand and justify those eye-popping financials. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "How cities should regulate the scooter surge," 11 July 2018 Legislators slipped the change in as part of this fiscal year’s budget package, justifying the fireworks tax by allotting its funds to local police and fire departments. Vinny Vella, Philly.com, "Fireworks sales are booming in Pennsylvania thanks to a change in the law," 30 June 2018 The reason: There has been a perception that the benefits — a little less time in bed — don’t justify trying to get a doctor’s appointment, get to the doctor’s office, and then find a pharmacy with drug in stock. Helen Branswell, STAT, "A flu drug — shown to reduce the duration of symptoms — could upend treatment in U.S.," 27 June 2018 However, federal courts ruled that the administration could not hold families, specifically children, without justifying the decision to detain them. Karen Mizoguchi, PEOPLE.com, "From Trump to Ann Coulter: Fact-Checking the Most Outrageous Claims About the Migrant Children Crisis," 19 June 2018 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

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

Phrases Related to justify

justify oneself

the end justifies the means

Statistics for justify

Last Updated

29 Sep 2018

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



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)

Keep scrolling for more

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).


required by fashion, etiquette, or custom

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Add Diction

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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