spe·​cif·​ic | \spi-ˈsi-fik \

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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Other Words from specific


specifically \spi-​ˈsi-​fi-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for specific


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


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


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

Now, Qualcomm’s next-generation Snapdragon 855 promises those platforms even more enhancements: dedicated logic blocks for digital assistants, revamped camera logic for computer vision, specific gaming boosts. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Meet Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855: AI boosts, a smarter camera, mobile gaming—and bye-bye, JPEG," 5 Dec. 2018 In those deals, the U.S. agreed not to levy more tariffs—in those cases, tariffs on automobiles—while the two sides negotiated over specific areas. Lingling Wei, WSJ, "U.S., China Explore Deal as Leaders Meet at G-20 Summit," 29 Nov. 2018 Many types of solitary wasps prey on specific cockroach species. Rob Dunn, Discover Magazine, "Our Attempts to Eradicate Insects are Just Making them Resistant to Pesticides," 16 Nov. 2018 The concept is simple: if there’s an abnormally high amount of people using the app in one specific area, Tinder will tell people who are nearby. Julia Alexander, The Verge, "Tinder introduces Swipe Surge to alert users of high activity nearby," 15 Nov. 2018 These Opportunity Zone funds can spend the money that they’ve been given in different ways to serve specific low-income areas. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "The new hotness for tech billionaires? Do-gooder investments they can write off on their taxes.," 16 Oct. 2018 Cotton pads also useful for concentrating on specific areas of the face, such as the under eyes. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Korean Cotton Pads Are the Secret to a Proper K-Beauty Skin Routine," 4 Oct. 2018 Bush did not develop a specific privatization plan, but instead articulated a series of principles, and expected Congress to work out the details. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "The time Nancy Pelosi saved Social Security," 21 Nov. 2018 Each region is making a specific plan for tourism for their region. Katherine Lagrave, Condé Nast Traveler, "Iceland Is Not Overrun With Tourists, Despite What Everyone Says," 25 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Regis didn’t say too much about the specifics of the Whiskey Lake-U platform, though a chip diagram that Intel published shows some details: Thunderbolt 3 will be included, as well as support for DDR4/LPDDR3, embedded DisplayPort, and more. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Intel's Whiskey Lake notebook chip launches, emphasizing connectivity this time around," 28 Aug. 2018 Final approval is expected in September, and industry officials said technical disagreements about specifics are expected to be resolved by then. Andy Pasztor, WSJ, "New Takeoff Rules Seek to Reduce U.S. Airline Delays," 26 July 2018 Amazon declined to answer questions about the specifics of its negotiations. Alana Semuels, The Atlantic, "How Amazon Helped Kill a Seattle Tax On Business," 13 June 2018 But airport officials are otherwise tight-lipped about specifics. Kevin Spear, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Orlando airport promises 'major announcement' on new flights in U.S. and abroad," 12 June 2018 In close to 15 minutes at a table surrounded by reporters, Bowen was asked about the specifics of his role in the FBI investigation many times. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Brian Bowen on recruiting scandal: 'They took the game away from me'," 17 May 2018 But because most business owners won't risk a suit by asking about specifics, legislators and advocates are simply hoping that their laws will discourage support and service animal scammers. NBC News, "Collared: New laws crack down on fake service dogs," 5 May 2018 Councilwoman Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, who voted against the dismissal hearing set for Monday, also declined to talk about specifics of the case. Matier & Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, "Alameda city manager’s job on the line over taping of two council members," 13 Apr. 2018 Like the Chambers Brothers, however, Nirenberg, left us Tuesday to speculate about the specifics behind all that urgency. Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News, "For Nirenberg, time has come today," 10 Apr. 2018

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


Late Latin specificus, from Latin species

Combining form

specific entry 1

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Statistics for specific

Last Updated

9 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for specific

The first known use of specific was circa 1631

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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 \

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 \

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 \

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 \ adverb
specificity \ˌspe-​sə-​ˈfi-​sə-​tē \ noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on specific

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with specific

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for specific

Spanish Central: Translation of specific

Nglish: Translation of specific for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of specific for Arabic Speakers

Comments on specific

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


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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