spe·​cial·​ize ˈspe-shə-ˌlīz How to pronounce specialize (audio)
specialized; specializing
: to concentrate one's efforts in a special activity, field, or practice
a doctor who specializes in pediatrics
an attorney who specializes in estate planning
Everywhere, the pressure is on young people to specialize.Donald Kaul
: to have a characteristic, habitual way of behaving, speaking, etc.
… the halftime commentator on ESPN 2, who specialized in inanities throughout the tournament …Jonathan Wilson
… a computer industry that seems to specialize in simultaneous hype and obfuscation …Walter S. Mossberg
The anti-environmental presidency was orchestrated by administration insiders who have specialized in being out of touch …Gregg Easterbrook
intransitive, biology : to undergo specialization (see specialization sense 2) or differentiation
As cells begin to specialize into adult tissues, methylation seems to inactivate genes that are no longer needed.John Travis
especially : to change adaptively
… diversity comes about because each different fish has to specialize, to find its own niche where it can do better than its competitors. Kenneth E. F. Watt
transitive : to apply or direct (something or someone) to a specific end, use, or specialty
specialized their study
… media are evolving so quickly that education of the future will probably be forced to specialize students in one or another media-type, no longer producing a single "literate" man.Henry G. Burger
Even some small police departments have seen fit to specialize their investigative units …Daniel S. McDevitt
transitive, dated : to make particular mention of (something) : specify, particularize
… Edward dares not specialize what alone he dreads.Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Example Sentences

Some carpenters do a wide range of jobs, while others specialize.
Recent Examples on the Web Holly Wilcox is a psychiatric epidemiologist in the Johns Hopkins schools of medicine and public health, specializing in suicide prevention among youth. Michele Cohen Marill, USA TODAY, 17 May 2023 Barbara Bellesi Zito is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate, home improvement, and lifestyle topics. Barbara Bellesi Zito, Peoplemag, 14 May 2023 The News asked three attorneys who specialize in government regulation and constitutional law to look at the bill: David Coale of Dallas, William X. King of Houston and University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law professor Brian Owsley. Lauren Mcgaughy, Dallas News, 9 May 2023 Brandy Engler, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in relationships and sexuality based in Los Angeles. Women's Health, 8 May 2023 Kevin Fagan is a longtime, award-winning reporter at The San Francisco Chronicle, specializing in homelessness, enterprise news-feature writing, breaking news and crime. Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle, 7 May 2023 The Scottish musician, who specializes in pop treacle, is foulmouthed the way a young child is — cheekily and cuddly, without a fleck of harm. Jon Caramanica, New York Times, 6 May 2023 The 3-month-old German Shepherd will join Mexico’s famed canine unit, specialized in helping locate survivors in a country prone to earthquakes and other natural disasters. Reuters, CNN, 4 May 2023 Intrepid Travel is a sustainable travel company that specializes in small group tours to places all over the globe. Sandra Macgregor, Forbes, 4 May 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1616, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Time Traveler
The first known use of specialize was in 1616

Dictionary Entries Near specialize

Cite this Entry

“Specialize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specialize. Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


spe·​cial·​ize ˈspesh-ə-ˌlīz How to pronounce specialize (audio)
specialized; specializing
: to limit one's attention or energy to one business, subject, or study
: to undergo specialization

Medical Definition


intransitive verb
variants also British specialise
specialized also British specialised; specializing also British specialising
: to concentrate one's efforts in a special activity or field : become or be a specialist
specialize in anesthesiology
: to undergo evolutionary specialization

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