spe·​cial·​ize | \ ˈspe-shə-ˌlīz How to pronounce specialize (audio) \
specialized; specializing

Definition of specialize

1 intransitive
a : to concentrate one's efforts in a special activity, field, or practice a doctor who specializes in pediatrics an attorney who specializes in estate planning Everywhere, the pressure is on young people to specialize.— Donald Kaul
b : to have a characteristic, habitual way of behaving, speaking, etc. … the halftime commentator on ESPN 2, who specialized in inanities throughout the tournament …— Jonathan Wilson … a computer industry that seems to specialize in simultaneous hype and obfuscation …— Walter S. Mossberg The anti-environmental presidency was orchestrated by administration insiders who have specialized in being out of touch …— Gregg Easterbrook
2 intransitive, biology : to undergo specialization (see specialization sense 2) or differentiation As cells begin to specialize into adult tissues, methylation seems to inactivate genes that are no longer needed.— John Travis especially : to change adaptively … diversity comes about because each different fish has to specialize, to find its own niche where it can do better than its competitors. — Kenneth E. F. Watt
3 transitive : to apply or direct (something or someone) to a specific end, use, or specialty specialized their study … media are evolving so quickly that education of the future will probably be forced to specialize students in one or another media-type, no longer producing a single "literate" man.— Henry G. Burger Even some small police departments have seen fit to specialize their investigative units …— Daniel S. McDevitt
4 transitive, dated : to make particular mention of (something) : specify, particularize … Edward dares not specialize what alone he dreads.— Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Examples of specialize in a Sentence

Some carpenters do a wide range of jobs, while others specialize.
Recent Examples on the Web GBS Enterprises and its ProtectAll subsidiary specialize in providing furniture warranties through retailers for items such as indoor furniture, outdoor furniture and area rugs. Dallas News, "Florida company ProtectAll moving HQ to North Richland Hills with 100 employees," 14 Jan. 2021 Many of the tips come from researchers who specialize in trauma and disaster recovery, the story states. Robin Lloyd, Scientific American, "Coronavirus News Roundup, January 2-January 8," 8 Jan. 2021 Most list books by title and broken into various age groups; others recommend writers who specialize in books for certain ages or interests; some do both. Shellie Lister, NOLA.com, "Check it out: Winter reading challenges for all ages," 3 Jan. 2021 In contrast to the rest of the health-care system, Medicare Advantage Chronic Condition Special Needs Plans (C-SNPs) can specialize in 15 chronic conditions. Marie Fishpaw, National Review, "What Trump Has Done to Change the Health Care System and How That Has Helped Battle COVID-19," 18 Oct. 2020 About 10 people specialize in carving knights for the World Chess sets, Mr. Merenzon said. New York Times, "What Are You Paying For in a $300 Chess Set? Mostly the Knights," 24 Dec. 2020 Donaldson employs about 50 people, most of whom specialize in logistics and production. Mark Bergen, Bloomberg.com, "The North Carolina Kid Who Cracked YouTube’s Secret Code," 22 Dec. 2020 Keller Lenkner is a relatively new firm whose founders have backgrounds in litigation financing and specialize in innovative approaches to complex issues, such as how big tech companies collect and use personal data. John D. Mckinnon, WSJ, "Texas Hires Lawyers to Handle Antitrust Case Against Google," 16 Dec. 2020 There are lots of different brands that make coffee makers, some of which specialize in the category and some that do all kinds of other things. Edmund Torr, Popular Science, "Best coffee maker: Five things to consider," 12 Dec. 2020

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

1616, in the meaning defined at sense 4

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Time Traveler for specialize

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The first known use of specialize was in 1616

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Last Updated

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Specialize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specialize. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for specialize


How to pronounce specialize (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of specialize

: to limit your business or area of study to one specific subject


spe·​cial·​ize | \ ˈspe-shə-ˌlīz How to pronounce specialize (audio) \
specialized; specializing

Kids Definition of specialize

1 : to limit attention or energy to one business, subject, or study The factory will specialize in jet airplanes.
2 : to change and develop so as to be suited for some particular use or living conditions The front legs of a mole are specialized for digging.
variants: also British specialise \ ˈspesh-​ə-​ˌlīz How to pronounce specialize (audio) \
specialized also British specialised; specializing also British specialising

Medical Definition of specialize

1 : to concentrate one's efforts in a special activity or field : become or be a specialist specialize in anesthesiology
2 : to undergo evolutionary specialization

More from Merriam-Webster on specialize

Nglish: Translation of specialize for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of specialize for Arabic Speakers

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