spe·​cif·​ic | \ spi-ˈsi-fik How to pronounce specific (audio) \

Definition of specific

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : constituting or falling into a specifiable category
b : sharing or being those properties of something that allow it to be referred to a particular category
2a : restricted to a particular individual, situation, relation, or effect a disease specific to horses
b : exerting a distinctive influence (as on a body part or a disease) specific antibodies
3 : free from ambiguity : accurate a specific statement of faith
4 : of, relating to, or constituting a species and especially a biological species
5a : being any of various arbitrary physical constants and especially one relating a quantitative attribute to unit mass, volume, or area
b : imposed at a fixed rate per unit (as of weight or count) specific import duties — compare ad valorem



Definition of specific (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : something peculiarly adapted to a purpose or use
b : a drug or remedy having a specific mitigating effect on a disease used as a specific against malaria
2a : a characteristic quality or trait
b : details, particulars usually used in plural haggling over the legal and financial specifics of independenceTime
c specifics plural : specification sense 2a


combining form

Definition of -specific (Entry 3 of 3)

: relating or applying specifically to or intended specifically for gender-specific

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Synonyms & Antonyms for specific

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

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special, especial, specific, particular, individual mean of or relating to one thing or class. special stresses having a quality, character, identity, or use of its own. special ingredients especial may add implications of preeminence or preference. a matter of especial importance specific implies a quality or character distinguishing a kind or a species. children with specific nutritional needs particular stresses the distinctness of something as an individual. a ballet step of particular difficulty individual implies unequivocal reference to one of a class or group. valued each individual opinion

explicit, definite, express, specific mean perfectly clear in meaning. explicit implies such verbal plainness and distinctness that there is no need for inference and no room for difficulty in understanding. explicit instructions definite stresses precise, clear statement or arrangement that leaves no doubt or indecision. the law is definite in such cases express implies both explicitness and direct and positive utterance. her express wishes specific applies to what is precisely and fully treated in detail or particular. two specific criticisms

Examples of specific in a Sentence

Adjective Is there anything specific you want for dinner? There is a specific word for this kind of feeling. a bird species that requires a specific environment We were each given a specific topic to talk about. The doctor gave the patient specific instructions on how to care for the wound. Can you be more specific? What exactly did the policeman say? He gave her a ring—or, to be more specific, he gave her an engagement ring. She was very specific—you have to use a certain kind of tomato in the sauce. an education plan specific to each student's interests and abilities problems specific to this one housing project Noun quinine is a specific for malaria although the speech was long on rhetoric and platitudinous generalities, it lacked specifics
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The referendum legislation will spell out ballot language that is specific to the Slidell-area project, officials said. Sara Pagones | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, "Before the Slidell-area casino can go on the St. Tammany ballot, here's what must happen first," 3 Feb. 2021 Be as specific as possible in your profile in order to effectively find matches on the websites. Ray A. Smith, WSJ, "How to Go Freelance During the Covid-19 Pandemic," 31 Jan. 2021 Well, a piñata version of the senator, to be more specific. Jeremy Hallock, Dallas News, "Oak Cliff party store turns Bernie Sanders inauguration meme into a piñata," 28 Jan. 2021 An after-care guide from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control is more specific about treating discomfort with over-the-counter pain relievers. New York Times, "Answers to All Your Questions About Getting Vaccinated for Covid-19," 27 Jan. 2021 Michael Allen, All Energy's chief executive, told the PUC Thursday that each complaint was specific and that his company has continued having problems with Xcel's interconnection process since 2019. Mike Hughlett, Star Tribune, "Minnesota regulators fine Xcel Energy $1M over dispute with solar developers," 21 Jan. 2021 Have your apologies been specific, sincere, and humble? Amy Dickinson, oregonlive, "Ask Amy: 11-year-old wants help procuring a pandemic puppy," 16 Jan. 2021 Have your apologies been specific, sincere and humble? Washington Post, "Ask Amy: Big favor leads to big friendship fallout," 16 Jan. 2021 Have your apologies been specific, sincere, and humble? Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "Big favor leads to friendship fallout," 16 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The vocabulary specific to the subreddit is extensive, and it will almost never be explained to a newbie earnestly asking for a term's definition. CNN, "Inside the Reddit army that's crushing Wall Street," 29 Jan. 2021 These are exercises that work a big group of muscles across multiple joints, whereas an isolation move works only one specific (and often small) muscle. Christa Sgobba, SELF, "This Upper Body Workout Will Target Your Shoulders, Back, and Chest," 2 Jan. 2021 While the Big East announced 23 December games for their men’s basketball programs earlier this week, nothing that specific has been announced for their women’s teams, other than that each school will play four games between Dec. 4 and the holidays. Alexa Philippou, courant.com, "UConn women’s notebook: Basketball ‘the DNA’ of Big East schools, scheduling updates from conference and UConn," 30 Oct. 2020 Seinfeld’s keen-eyed encapsulations of the minutiae of daily life are testament to the old saw about how in the specific there is the universal. Washington Post, "Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘Is This Anything?’ charts his life as a comedian, one bit at a time," 13 Oct. 2020 But these technologies are typically geared toward a specific, and profitable, demographic: higher-income white, cisgender woman. Alexander Borsa, STAT, "When private equity firms invest in women’s health clinics, who benefits?," 14 Sep. 2020 The personal and the specific are the antidotes to cliché, but these are often only recognizable to those who know a place intimately, and see, in every little inlet, home. Lucy Jakub, The New York Review of Books, "Maine’s Sublime Canvas of Contradictions," 12 Sep. 2020 Ostensibly universal, Damron’s handbook, first published in 1964 and still released annually, was actually directed toward a specific—and secretive—audience. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "This Interactive Map Visualizes the Queer Geography of 20th-Century America," 9 Mar. 2020 Each delegate will receive a ballot specific to them. Fox News, "Questions hang over Democrats’ shift to virtual convention," 14 July 2020

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


circa 1631, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1661, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for specific

Adjective and Combining form

Late Latin specificus, from Latin species

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Time Traveler for specific

Time Traveler

The first known use of specific was circa 1631

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Statistics for specific

Last Updated

16 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Specific.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specific. Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for specific



English Language Learners Definition of specific

: special or particular
: clearly and exactly presented or stated : precise or exact
: relating to a particular person, situation, etc.


spe·​cif·​ic | \ spi-ˈsi-fik How to pronounce specific (audio) \

Kids Definition of specific

1 : relating to or being an example of a certain kind of thing a specific case
2 : relating to a particular individual or situation There are problems specific to this project.
3 : clearly and exactly presented or stated specific directions

Other Words from specific

specifically \ -​ˈsi-​fi-​kə-​lē \ adverb


spe·​cif·​ic | \ spi-ˈsif-ik How to pronounce specific (audio) \

Medical Definition of specific

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : restricted by nature to a particular individual, situation, relation, or effect a disease specific to horses
b : exerting a distinctive influence (as on a body part or a disease) specific antibodies
2 : of, relating to, or constituting a species and especially a biological species



Medical Definition of specific (Entry 2 of 2)

: a drug or remedy having a specific mitigating effect on a disease

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spe·​cif·​ic | \ spə-ˈsi-fik How to pronounce specific (audio) \

Legal Definition of specific

1 : relating to a particular thing
2 : intended for or restricted to a particular end or object
3 : being of a particularly identified kind or nature

Other Words from specific

specifically \ -​i-​klē, -​kə-​lē How to pronounce specific (audio) \ adverb
specificity \ ˌspe-​sə-​ˈfi-​sə-​tē How to pronounce specific (audio) \ noun

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Comments on specific

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