pro·​fil·​ing | \ˈprō-ˌfī-liŋ \

Definition of profiling 

: the act or process of extrapolating information about a person based on known traits or tendencies consumer profiling specifically : the act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior racial profiling

Examples of profiling in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

In other words, the central assumption of criminal profiling is nonsense. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "Criminal profiling doesn’t work. TV shows should maybe stop celebrating it.," 12 Nov. 2018 Several stories showing racial profiling of black Americans by police and white Americans continue to go viral — in one video, a white woman calls the cops on a black man babysitting two white children in Georgia. Rachael Herron, Vox, "I used to be a 911 dispatcher. I had to respond to racist calls every day.," 31 Oct. 2018 Last month, a group of black people wrote to the House and Senate Judiciary committees asking for a hearing on racial profiling before the August recess, The Washington Post’s Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reported. Kristine Phillips,, "A black lawmaker was campaigning door to door in her district. A constituent called 911.," 6 July 2018 Problems remain, such as racial profiling among Austin’s 7.5 percent African-American population, Linder said. Steve Miletich, The Seattle Times, "‘He’s just a doer’: Meet Seattle police-chief candidate Ely Reyes," 9 July 2018 The turnaround came after Hennepin County’s chief public defender contacted Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to complain about what appeared to be racial profiling. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "raceAhead: The CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion Turns Two and Five Breaking News Haikus," 8 June 2018 The case has also led other law enforcement agencies to consider the use of genetic profiling in unsolved cases, including that of the Zodiac Killer, believed to have killed several people in the Bay Area during the 1960’s. Nashelly Chavez, sacbee, "Patton Oswalt visits Citrus Heights to talk about his wife’s book on the Golden State Killer. Here’s what he had to say," 30 May 2018 Or how does private wealth accumulation contribute to racial profiling? Jonny Coleman, The Hollywood Reporter, "Critic's Notebook: Beyonce Makes Jay-Z Better on Surprise Couples-Therapy Album 'Everything Is Love'," 18 June 2018 For more than a month, Bradley has allowed the bill to languish in his committee, citing concerns that the bill would allow police to view people’s cellphones and could lead to racial profiling. By Lawrence Mower, miamiherald, "Prospects for ‘texting while driving’ bill look dim. Privacy, profiling are concerns. | Miami Herald," 26 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'profiling.' 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 profiling

1980, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for profiling

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for profiling

The first known use of profiling was in 1980

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More Definitions for profiling



English Language Learners Definition of profiling

: the act or process of learning information about someone based on what is already known

: the act or practice of regarding particular people as more likely to commit crimes because of their appearance, race, etc.



Legal Definition of profiling 

: the practice of singling out persons for law enforcement procedures on the basis of predetermined characteristics specifically : the discriminatory practice of profiling based on race or ethnicity racial profiling

More from Merriam-Webster on profiling

Britannica English: Translation of profiling for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about profiling

Comments on profiling

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


to make faulty or ineffective

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