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 But one group kept buying: Investors in funds that specialize in ESG investing, which pick companies based on their records on the environment, social responsibility, and corporate governance. Matthew Heimer, Fortune, "Why investors like socially responsible companies," 20 Nov. 2020 This, in turn, has created a booming business for companies dealing in educational technology – or edtech – including firms that specialize in ensuring remote exams are free from cheating. Avi Asher-schapiro, The Christian Science Monitor, "Online exams raise concerns of racial bias in facial recognition," 17 Nov. 2020 The fashion hub is bursting with local artisans and designers, all of whom specialize in reinventing traditional kente or fugu clothes with a modern twist. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "In Accra, Five Designers Are Reinventing Ghanaian Traditions," 12 Nov. 2020 The country’s biggest companies specialize in automotive and engineering—sturdy and reliable but with a whiff of yesteryear. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Note: Destroying the Town to Save it — Lockdown Update," 12 Nov. 2020 More than exchanges between traditional K-12 districts, students are exiting to charter or private schools that specialize in virtual teaching. Courtney Tanner, The Salt Lake Tribune, "These Utah school districts saw the biggest drops in enrollment this year. Here’s why.," 6 Nov. 2020 With masks covering most of one's face, salons that specialize in the art of eyebrows and eyelashes have been inundated with people wanting to shape, tint and color them. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "With people wearing masks, area salons are helping people smile with their eyes. Here's what's popular.," 6 Nov. 2020 To up the ante even more, Lipslut is joining the effort and using its proceeds to help fund organizations that specialize in voter participation and civil rights. Nicola Dall'asen, Allure, "Lipslut Is Donating Proceeds From Its F*ck Trump Lipstick to the Causes Trump Hates," 29 Oct. 2020 Glover says the bank will specialize in financing Black and Latinx entrepreneurs who typically have a harder time securing loans from mainstream commercial banks. Chauncey Alcorn Cnn Business, CNN, "Killer Mike's new Black-owned bank receives 'tens of thousands' of account requests in less than 24 hours," 10 Oct. 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

29 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Specialize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specialize. Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

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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 specialise (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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