iden·​ti·​fy ī-ˈden-tə-ˌfī How to pronounce identify (audio)
identified; identifying; identifies

transitive verb

: to perceive or state the identity of (someone or something)
"It's the young man!" I thought, feeling my heart shoot as I identified him.Charlies Dickens
Mr. Mace identified the phial handed him by Counsel as that sold by him to "Mr. Inglethorp."Agatha Christie
Hitters say the spitball is easily identified because, while it has the speed of a fastball, it scarcely rotates.Ron Fimrite
: to ascertain the identity of (someone or something that is unfamiliar or unknown)
He was able to quickly identify the problem.
Police have identified a person of interest.
Dr. McGovern explains that "identifying the cause of the disease is a breakthrough. …"The Chronicle of the Horse
: to determine the taxonomic position or category of (a biological specimen)
We were able to identify the plant as belonging to the nightshade family.
: to conceive as united (as in spirit, outlook, or principle)
These groups are identified with conservation.
: to cause to be or become identical
identified her interests with theirs
Sometimes people identify success with money, but for me it's giving of yourself.Lorna E. Barnes
In some strange way the boat became identified with himself, and just as it would have been useless for him to get up and steer the boat, so was it useless for him to struggle any longer with the irresistible force of his own feelings.Virginia Woolf

intransitive verb

: to feel a sense of unity (as of interests, purpose, or effect) and close emotional association : to engage in psychological identification
Many readers identify with the hero of a novel.
I could identify with the anxiety she was experiencing.
: to have or assert an identity of a specified kind
Of the high school students who participated, 77% identified as female, 20% identified as male, 2% identified as nonbinary …Elizabeth Beyer
archaic : to be or become the same
… new channels of communication will be opened between the States, the lines of separation will disappear, their interests will be identified, and their union cemented by new and indissoluble bonds.Thomas Jefferson

Example Sentences

She identified the dog as her lost pet. He was able to correctly identify the mushroom. The witness positively identified the suspect in the crime. The corpse was identified on the basis of dental records. They could not identify the source of the quotation. They had no difficulty in identifying the problem. We began by identifying what we needed for the job. We need to identify the causes of unemployment. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Responding to a question from Councilwoman Melody Joy Hart, Seren said the Cleveland Heights city logo will be put on all of the new cars, so that residents and property owners can identify them. Thomas Jewell, cleveland, 24 Jan. 2023 The first step to resolving the grief created by an ambiguous loss is to learn how to identify it. Mark Travers, Forbes, 24 Jan. 2023 People like to identify themselves with generations, and others with generations, too. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 24 Jan. 2023 The Supreme Court announced that an internal investigation had failed to identify who leaked a draft of the opinion that overturned Roe. Ava Sasani, New York Times, 23 Jan. 2023 Asked about the donors at an unrelated news conference last week, Shapiro, a Democrat, made no commitment to identify them. Marc Levy, ajc, 23 Jan. 2023 Micah Coomer, Joshua Abate and Dodge Dale Hellonen were arrested this week on misdemeanor charges after their fellow Marines helped investigators identify them in footage among the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021, according to court papers. Alanna Durkin Richer, Anchorage Daily News, 21 Jan. 2023 The Supreme Court said an investigation has so far failed to identify who leaked the draft of the opinion overruling Roe v. Wade, the first public statement since Roberts announced the probe. WSJ, 20 Jan. 2023 Micah Coomer, Joshua Abate and Dodge Dale Hellonen were arrested this week on misdemeanor charges after their fellow Marines helped investigators identify them in footage among the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021, according to court papers. CBS News, 20 Jan. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'identify.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

1746, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of identify was in 1746

Dictionary Entries Near identify

Cite this Entry

“Identify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


iden·​ti·​fy ī-ˈdent-ə-ˌfī How to pronounce identify (audio)
identified; identifying
: to think of as united (as in spirit or principle)
groups identified with conservation
: to find out or show the identity of
identified the dog as her lost pet
: to think of oneself as having the same problems and feelings as someone else
identify with a character in a story
identifiable adjective
identifiably adverb

Medical Definition


iden·​ti·​fy ī-ˈdent-ə-ˌfī, ə- How to pronounce identify (audio)
identified; identifying

transitive verb

: to determine the taxonomic position of (a biological specimen)

intransitive verb

: to undergo or experience psychological identification
identify with the hero of a novel

Legal Definition


transitive verb
identified; identifying
: to consider as united or associated (as in interests or principles)
can ask leading questions of a witness who is identified with an adverse party
: to establish the identity of
identifying the suspect
: to specify or designate (goods) as the object of a contract
used in the phrase identify to the contract
the disputed beans were goods identified to the contract

Note: Under the Uniform Commercial Code, once goods are identified to a contract, the buyer has a special property interest and an insurable interest in the goods. This gives the buyer the right to seek damages and other relief. This identification can be done at any time and in any manner agreed to by the parties or as otherwise specified in the U.C.C.

identifiable adjective
identification noun

More from Merriam-Webster on identify

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