re·​ify | \ ˈrā-ə-ˌfī How to pronounce reify (audio) , ˈrē- \
reified; reifying

Definition of reify

transitive verb

: to consider or represent (something abstract) as a material or concrete thing : to give definite content and form to (a concept or idea) … a culture can be reified into a body of traditions …— M. J. Herskovits

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Reify is a word that attempts to provide a bridge between what is abstract and what is real. Fittingly, it derives from a word that is an ancestor to real—the Latin noun res, meaning "thing." Both reify and the related noun reification first appeared in English in the mid-19th century. Each word combines the Latin res with an English suffix (-fy and -fication, respectively) that is derived from the Latin -ficare, meaning "to make." In general use, the words refer to the act of considering or presenting an abstract idea in real or material terms, or of judging something by a concrete example.

Examples of reify in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ousmane Sembène, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—along with many others—have produced extraordinary works of fiction that strive to reconceive national bonds (in Kenya, Senegal, and Nigeria, respectively), rather than reify them. Kristen Roupenian, The New Yorker, 20 June 2022 Guns are central to this worldview, and the Buffalo video shows in real time their power to reify belief into deed. New York Times, 15 June 2022 What began as a passion project to reify a history lesson has since transformed into a cautionary tale. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, 7 June 2022 The challenge, Ninh acknowledges, is to talk about success in terms that don’t merely reify the myth of the model minority. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 10 Mar. 2022 So long as the university and the aforementioned movements stand against classic literature, mere op-eds will do little to reify our commitment to great books, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid will replace George Orwell. Daniel Buck, National Review, 6 June 2021 Especially during Reconstruction, the trope served to continue the dehumanization of Black women following slavery and to reify white womanhood, Lindsey said. NBC News, 14 Oct. 2020 In each of these representative cases, statistics reified not just social affiliation but identity itself. Shannon Pufahl, The New York Review of Books, 21 Apr. 2020 He was bewildered by the rise of a style of identity politics that reified the fictions of race and, through its fixation on diversity in élite spaces, abandoned the working class. Jay Caspian Kang, The New Yorker, 15 Nov. 2019 See More

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

First Known Use of reify

1854, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for reify

Latin res thing — more at real

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Last Updated

9 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Reify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on reify

Britannica English: Translation of reify for Arabic Speakers


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