identity

noun
iden·​ti·​ty | \ ī-ˈden-tə-tē How to pronounce identity (audio) , ə-, -ˈde-nə- \
plural identities

Essential Meaning of identity

1 : who someone is : the name of a person The identity of the criminal/victim is not known. The face of the witness was hidden in order to protect her identity. [=to keep her name from being known] See More ExamplesThe documents proved/established his identity. [=proved/established who he was] They produced their passports as proof of their identities. You will need to show proof of identity. [=something that shows that you are who you say you are] They arrested the wrong man. It was a case of mistaken identity.Hide
2 : the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others As children grow, they establish their own identities. She did not want to be known only as the wife of her husband. She insisted on having her own identity. [=on being known for her own qualities, achievements, etc.] See More Examplespeople who seem to lack individual identity He has a strong sense of personal identity. [=a strong feeling about exactly the kind of person he is] His art reflects his cultural/racial identity.Hide

Full Definition of identity

1a : the distinguishing character or personality of an individual : individuality
b : the relation established by psychological identification
2 : the condition of being the same with something described or asserted establish the identity of stolen goods
3a : sameness of essential or generic character in different instances
b : sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing : oneness
4 : an equation that is satisfied for all values of the symbols

Examples of identity in a Sentence

The identity of the criminal is not known. They produced their passports as proof of their identities. They arrested the wrong man. It was a case of mistaken identity. As children grow, they establish their own identities. people who seem to lack individual identity His art reflects his cultural identity.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact. New York Times, 7 Jan. 2022 This wasn't a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact. Steve Helling, PEOPLE.com, 7 Jan. 2022 This wasn't a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact. NBC News, 7 Jan. 2022 Similarly, the spell can erase proof of Spider-Man’s identity from any data storage or physical paper. Chris Smith, BGR, 4 Jan. 2022 Police quickly found that a woman’s report that Hardesty bumped her car in traffic and didn’t stop was a case of mistaken identity. oregonlive, 30 Dec. 2021 The man’s infamous identity is confirmed in a mid-credits scene where Hanussen meets up with Vladimir Lenin (August Diehl). Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 25 Dec. 2021 The man’s identity has not yet been released, police said, pending notification of his family. Washington Post, 4 Dec. 2021 Casstevens said the man’s identity is not going to be released until his family has been contacted. James T. Norman, chicagotribune.com, 2 Dec. 2021

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

See More

First Known Use of identity

1545, in the meaning defined at sense 3a

History and Etymology for identity

Middle French identité, from Late Latin identitat-, identitas, probably from Latin identidem repeatedly, contraction of idem et idem, literally, same and same

Learn More About identity

Time Traveler for identity

Time Traveler

The first known use of identity was in 1545

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near identity

identism

identity

identity card

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for identity

Last Updated

17 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Identity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/identity. Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for identity

identity

noun
iden·​ti·​ty | \ ī-ˈden-tə-tē How to pronounce identity (audio) \
plural identities

Kids Definition of identity

1 : the set of qualities and beliefs that make one person or group different from others : individuality Children establish their own identities.
2 : the fact of being the same person or thing as claimed Can you prove your identity?
3 : the fact or condition of being exactly alike : sameness He proved the identity of the two books' authorship.

identity

noun
iden·​ti·​ty | \ ī-ˈden(t)-ət-ē, ə-ˈ How to pronounce identity (audio) \
plural identities

Medical Definition of identity

1 : the distinguishing character or personality of an individual
2 : the relation established by psychological identification

identity

noun
iden·​ti·​ty
plural identities

Legal Definition of identity

1 : sameness of essential character or aspect collateral estoppel requires identity of the issues and the parties
2a : separate or distinct existence when movables lose their identity or become an integral part of the immovableLouisiana Civil Code
b : distinguishing character of a person especially : information (as a name or address) that distinguishes a person is required to reveal the identity of an informer but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 15(c)
3 : the condition of being the same as a thing or person described, claimed, or accused character evidence of a suspect's past crimes may be admitted to prove the identity of a crime's perpetrator

More from Merriam-Webster on identity

Nglish: Translation of identity for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of identity for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!