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[in-duh-vij-oo-uh l] /ˌɪn dəˈvɪdʒ u əl/
a single human being, as distinguished from a group.
a person:
a strange individual.
a distinct, indivisible entity; a single thing, being, instance, or item.
a group considered as a unit.
  1. a single organism capable of independent existence.
  2. a member of a compound organism or colony.
Cards. a duplicate-bridge tournament in which each player plays the same number of hands in partnership with every other player, individual scores for each player being kept for each hand.
single; particular; separate:
to number individual copies of a limited edition.
intended for the use of one person only:
to serve individual portions of a pizza.
of, relating to, or characteristic of a particular person or thing:
individual tastes.
distinguished by special, singular, or markedly personal characteristics; exhibiting unique or unusual qualities:
a highly individual style of painting.
existing as a distinct, indivisible entity, or considered as such; discrete:
individual parts of a tea set.
of which each is different or of a different design from the others:
a set of individual coffee cups.
Origin of individual
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English < Medieval Latin indīviduālis, equivalent to Latin indīvidu(us) indivisible (in- in-3 + dīvid(ere) to divide + -uus deverbal adj. suffix) + -ālis -al1
Related forms
interindividual, adjective
nonindividual, adjective
superindividual, adjective, noun
superindividually, adverb
transindividual, adjective
Can be confused
individual, party, person (see usage note at the current entry; see synonym study at person)
Synonym Study
2. See person.
Usage note
1, 2. As a synonym for person, individual is standard, occurring in all varieties of speech and writing: Three individuals entered the room, each carrying a sheaf of papers. Some object to this use, insisting that individual can mean only “a single human being, as distinguished from a group”: An individual may have concerns that are ignored by his or her party. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for individual
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Only an individual here and there sees that freedom and domination must belong to us.

  • Time after time He comes to the individual's relief according to His own law.

  • It is individual ardour alone that can combine into larger flame.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • Her one art was histrionics of the kind that made an individual appeal.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • But the interference must be regulated by some theory of the individual's rights.

British Dictionary definitions for individual


of, relating to, characteristic of, or meant for a single person or thing
separate or distinct, esp from others of its kind; particular: please mark the individual pages
characterized by unusual and striking qualities; distinctive
(obsolete) indivisible; inseparable
a single person, esp when regarded as distinct from others
  1. a single animal or plant, esp as distinct from a species
  2. a single member of a compound organism or colony
  1. Also called particular. an object as opposed to a property or class
  2. an element of the domain of discourse of a theory
Derived Forms
individually, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Medieval Latin indīviduālis, from Latin indīviduus indivisible, from in-1 + dīviduus divisible, from dīvidere to divide
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for individual

early 15c., "one and indivisible" (with reference to the Trinity), from Medieval Latin individualis, from Latin individuus "indivisible," from in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + dividuus "divisible," from dividere "divide" (see divide). Not common before c.1600 and the 15c. usage might be isolated. Sense of "single, separate" is 1610s; meaning "intended for one person" is from 1889.


"single object or thing," c.1600, from individual (adj.). Colloquial sense of "person" is attested from 1742. Latin individuum meant "an atom, indivisible particle;" in Middle English individuum was used in sense of "individual member of a species" from early 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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