spec·​i·​fy | \ ˈspe-sə-ˌfī How to pronounce specify (audio) \
specified; specifying

Definition of specify

transitive verb

1 : to name or state explicitly or in detail
2 : to include as an item in a specification

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Other Words from specify

specifiable \ ˌspe-​sə-​ˈfī-​ə-​bəl How to pronounce specifiable (audio) \ adjective
specifier \ ˈspe-​sə-​ˌfī(-​ə)r How to pronounce specifier (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for specify


define, lay down, prescribe

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Examples of specify in a Sentence

Can you specify the cause of the argument? Specify the color and quantity when you order. He clearly specified California wine. The instructions do not specify what kind of screws to use. All subscriptions are for one year unless otherwise specified. At the specified time, we rang the bell. She agreed to the terms specified in the contract.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The department’s policy specifies that facial recognition will be used only to investigate violent crimes. Amy Harmon, New York Times, "As Cameras Track Detroit’s Residents, a Debate Ensues Over Racial Bias," 8 July 2019 El Cajon’s government code specifies that any salary increases approved by the City Council can’t take effect until after the term ends for at least one council member. San Diego Union-Tribune, "El Cajon council getting a raise; Santee opts to study the issue," 3 July 2019 The bill also specifies that money raised could be spent on mental health care. CBS News, "Oregon Senate finishes whirlwind votes after Republicans stall session," 1 July 2019 The agreement, which the Metra Board of Directors has not yet approved, specifies 10 of the spaces would be in the new parking deck and the other 40 would be surface parking spaces near the downtown Metra station. Kimberly Fornek, chicagotribune.com, "Parking garage next to Hinsdale Middle School won’t be completed until 2020," 19 June 2019 Another bill specifies that confidential harassment and discrimination complaints don’t preclude the person who filed the complaint from telling other people. Joseph De Avila, WSJ, "Lawmakers Propose Bills to Strengthen New Jersey’s Sexual-Misconduct Response," 17 June 2019 Attractive, specifies that her opinion is not based on any empirical evidence. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Exactly How Hot Is Keanu Reeves, According to Science*?," 12 June 2019 The contract also specifies the employer must help pay for tuition if an employee has to attend school for training. Melissa Hellmann, The Seattle Times, "As Seattle’s new hotels roll out automation to serve guests, workers worry," 18 May 2019 For instance, the National Academies report specifies that any editing of DNA should prevent a serious heritable disease. Anna Groves, Discover Magazine, "Human Gene Editing is Controversial. Shoukhrat Mitalipov Isn't Deterred," 15 Apr. 2019

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for specify

Middle English specifien, from Anglo-French specifier, from Late Latin specificare, from specificus

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Statistics for specify

Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for specify

The first known use of specify was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for specify



English Language Learners Definition of specify

: to name or mention (someone or something) exactly and clearly : to be specific about (something)


spec·​i·​fy | \ ˈspe-sə-ˌfī How to pronounce specify (audio) \
specified; specifying

Kids Definition of specify

1 : to mention or name exactly and clearly Can you specify the cause of the crash?
2 : to include in a description of work to be done or materials to be used

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More from Merriam-Webster on specify

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for specify

Spanish Central: Translation of specify

Nglish: Translation of specify for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of specify for Arabic Speakers

Comments on specify

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


something desired as essential

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