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in·​di·​vid·​u·​al ˌin-də-ˈvi-jə-wəl How to pronounce individual (audio)
: of, relating to, or distinctively associated with an individual
an individual effort
: intended for one person
an individual serving
: being an individual or existing as an indivisible whole
: having marked individuality
an individual style
: existing as a distinct entity : separate
obsolete : inseparable
individually adverb


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: a particular being or thing as distinguished from a class, species, or collection: such as
: a single human being as contrasted with a social group or institution
a teacher who works with individuals
: a single organism as distinguished from a group
: a particular person
are you the individual I spoke with on the telephone?
: an indivisible entity
: the reference of a name or variable of the lowest logical type in a calculus
Choose the Right Synonym for individual

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

characteristic, individual, peculiar, distinctive mean indicating a special quality or identity.

characteristic applies to something that distinguishes or identifies a person or thing or class.

responded with her characteristic wit

individual stresses qualities that distinguish one from all other members of the same kind or class.

a highly individual writing style

peculiar applies to qualities possessed only by a particular individual or class or kind and stresses rarity or uniqueness.

an eccentricity that is peculiar to the British

distinctive indicates qualities distinguishing and uncommon and often superior or praiseworthy.

a distinctive aura of grace and elegance

Examples of individual in a Sentence

Adjective What are the individual traits of the breed? The doctor carefully evaluates the individual needs of her patients. Students will receive as much individual attention as possible. She has a very individual style of writing. a pattern as individual as a fingerprint Noun They promote a philosophy that sacrifices the rights of the individual for the public welfare. They are both rather odd individuals. Are you the individual I spoke with on the telephone? She's a very talented individual. The markings on tigers are unique to each individual.
Recent Examples on the Web
If her corpus is a circle of redwoods, they’re joined at the root by her commitment to depicting Black life with historical and cultural specificity, and to understanding history’s absurd impact on individual lives. Imani Perry Janina Edwards Krish Seenivasan Devin Murphy, New York Times, 11 Apr. 2024 The lesson of these tales, relayed in the backyard between Stool Pigeon’s house and King and Ruby’s, is one of helpless interdependence in a world that is just too small and too chaotic for individual kingdoms. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 11 Apr. 2024 As surprising as this now seems, until 1960, several of the U.S. military branches had their own individual plans for nuclear war. Annie Jacobsen, TIME, 11 Apr. 2024 State wildlife experts believe there are about 1,200 individual bears in the state. Ryan Chelius, Field & Stream, 11 Apr. 2024 By replicating real-life situations, the app enables users to develop practical language skills that adapt to individual learners’ needs and proficiency levels in bite-size increments that fit into any lifestyle. Stack Commerce, Popular Science, 10 Apr. 2024 Get The Recipe 16 of 28 Buttermilk-Lime Mini Cakes with Vanilla-Mascarpone Buttercream These cute, individual cakes can be covered and refrigerated until mom arrives. Kimberly Holland, Southern Living, 10 Apr. 2024 Its price varies by location. $20 Family Meal — six pieces of chicken (two drums, two thighs, one breast and one wing), four individual sides and four biscuits. The Indianapolis Star, 10 Apr. 2024 The hideout boasted more than 1,000 bunk beds, a 400-seat cafeteria, individual auditoriums for both the Senate and the House of Representatives, vast water tanks, and a trash incinerator that could serve as a crematorium. Emily Matchar, Smithsonian Magazine, 9 Apr. 2024
Two individuals were treated at the scene for minor injuries and two others were transported to the hospitalfor minor injuries as well. Melissa Noel, Essence, 12 Apr. 2024 That average age of onset for the disease is in an individual’s early 60s. Saleen Martin, USA TODAY, 12 Apr. 2024 For example, individuals and businesses that were hit by the severe storms and tornadoes in parts of Michigan last August now have until June 17 to file their income tax returns. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, 12 Apr. 2024 This is the web version of CFO Daily, a newsletter on the trends and individuals shaping corporate finance. Sheryl Estrada, Fortune, 12 Apr. 2024 Two individuals were treated at the scene of the accident by Dallas Fire Rescue for minor injuries. Angel Saunders, Peoplemag, 11 Apr. 2024 But even for individuals who just plan to walk or hike, toe splay is important for balance. Laura Lancaster, Outdoor Life, 11 Apr. 2024 First, individuals and families apply for WIC benefits. The Arizona Republic, 11 Apr. 2024 To keep fish populations sustainable, fisheries must ensure that enough breeding individuals are either left alone or released back into the wild. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 11 Apr. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'individual.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Medieval Latin individualis, from Latin individuus indivisible, from in- + dividuus divided, from dividere to divide

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of individual was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near individual

Cite this Entry

“Individual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
in·​di·​vid·​u·​al ˌin-də-ˈvij-(ə-)wəl How to pronounce individual (audio)
: of or relating to an individual
individual traits
: intended for one person
individual servings
: particular entry 1 sense 1, separate
individual copies
: having a special quality : distinct
an individual style


2 of 2 noun
: a single member of a class, species, or collection
: a single human being

More from Merriam-Webster on individual

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