noun, plural i·den·ti·ties.
- an equation that is valid for all values of its variables.
- Also called identity element, unit element, unity . an element in a set such that the element operating on any other element of the set leaves the second element unchanged.
- the property of a function or map such that each element is mapped into itself.
- the function or map itself.
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Origin of identity
historical usage of identity
“One’s personal characteristics, or the sense of who one is, as perceived by the person or by others,” is a meaning of identity that dates from the early 18th century. Since then, issues of personal identity, especially sexual and gender identity, have provoked discussions about one’s overlapping roles in society. The phrase identity politics “political activity based on or catering to the cultural, ethnic, gender, racial, religious, or social interests that characterize a group identity” was coined in 1973.
OTHER WORDS FROM identitynon·i·den·ti·ty, noun
Words nearby identity
ABOUT THIS WORD
What is identity?
Identity is the unique set of characteristics that can be used to identify a person as themself and no one else.
The word can be used in different ways in different contexts.
On a personal level, identity often refers to a person’s sense of self, meaning how they view themself as compared to other people.
Practically speaking, a person’s identity is who they really are. A detective may try to determine the identity of a suspect—meaning who that person is (including things like their real name). A case of mistaken identity involves someone being mistaken for someone they are not. Superheroes often have secret identities.
The concept of identity is complex and can involve all kinds of characteristics, qualities, experiences, interests, and other aspects of a person that make them distinct from anyone else.
In the term identity politics, identity refers to the cultural, ethnic, gender, racial, religious, social, or other facets that a person considers as inherent to who they are, especially in relation to their belonging in a particular group or community of similar people.
Identity can involve physical traits, such as eye color or height, but it doesn’t necessarily involve such things. For example, the crime of identity theft usually involves stealing someone’s personal information, not their physical appearance (except in the movie Face/Off).
Example: The journalist refused to reveal the identity of her source.
Example: Being a Black bisexual woman is a huge and important part of my identity, but it’s not my whole identity: I’m a coder; I’m a Knicks fan; I love dogs—my identity can’t be easily defined with a few words.
Where does identity come from?
The first records of the word identity come from around 1560. It ultimately comes from the Latin idem, meaning “the same.” Generally speaking, the traits that make up a person’s identity are what identifies them as remaining the same under different circumstances. For example, a person doesn’t become a different person just because they dye their hair or change their name or lose an arm. (In another sense, such a change could be considered to change a person’s identity by adding another unique aspect to it.)
Conception and discussion of identity has evolved over time, especially in the context of sexual identity, gender identity, and racial identity. In these contexts, identities relating to these characteristics were traditionally defined with rigid categories. In contrast, many modern conceptions of these aspects of identity place them along a spectrum or don’t limit them to any predefined categories.
To learn more about the complex aspects of identity—both the word and the concept—take a look at why identity was chosen as the Dictionary.com Word of the Year in 2015.
Did you know … ?
What are some synonyms for identity?
What are some words that share a root or word element with identity?
What are some words that often get used in discussing identity?
How is identity used in real life?
Identity is a complex concept, and the word can be used in various ways in different contexts.
Dammit, Variety! Some of us don't want the identity of the killer in Child 44 flat-out told to us in the middle of the review!
— Mathew Buck (@FB_BMB) April 16, 2015
The way it feels so natural being with a women, I can't believe I neglected this part of my identity for so long 🥺👉🏼👈🏼
— Yahaira Cáceres (@hai_rac) October 16, 2020
Establishing a professional identity often involves managing perceptions of racial identity.
This is especially the case when you don’t “racially match” your job.
— Vijay Ramjattan (@Vijay_Ramjattan) October 16, 2020
Try using identity!
A person’s identity can involve which of the following things?
A. their gender
B. their interests
C. their job
D. all of the above
How to use identity in a sentence
They were spurred by their research, which revealed Ghanaian banks to be beset by widespread identity fraud and cybercrime and spent nearly $400 million a year to identify their customers.The race to build facial recognition tech for Africa is being led by this award-winning engineer|Audrey Donkor|September 17, 2020|Quartz
Now we have different sorts of status hierarchies for each identity—related to, for example, class or occupation—and a fire hose of social information layered on top of our personal relationships.
Acquiring these user identities is one step, the next is to connect a given user identity cohesively across all points in the brand’s digital ecosystem.Deep Dive: How the Summer of 2020 forced brand marketing to change for the better|jim cooper|September 14, 2020|Digiday
The information requested by these systems to verify a voter’s identity is often easily discoverable,and sometimes even a matter of public record in states that make voter files public.Voting by mail is more secure than the President says. How to make it even safer|matthewheimer|September 13, 2020|Fortune
The James Beard Foundation is experiencing something of an identity crisis.The Mess That Is the 2020 James Beard Awards, Explained|Elazar Sontag|September 11, 2020|Eater
But he, like many people using dating apps whatever their sexual identity, remains stoutly positive.
They are not the actual traffickers, Yazbek says, so generally the other refugees protect their identity.
But those strands of his identity are all wound around the conspiracy that led him back to Gambia for the first time in 23 years.The Shadowy U.S. Veteran Who Tried to Overthrow a Country|Jacob Siegel|January 6, 2015|DAILY BEAST
Identity issues seem to have dogged Otis since his troubles began.His First Day Out Of Jail After 40 Years: Adjusting To Life Outside|Justin Rohrlich|January 3, 2015|DAILY BEAST
In a remote location with little means for economic development, the Brogpas have cultivating this identity to their advantage.
Now the Waterford and Limerick were to lose, not only the Ennis line, but all their lines and their own identity as well.
There is a perfect identity of principle, both working to the same good end, between the existing corn-law and the new tariff.
But in all probability, the messenger knew less about the identity of the Eye than Black Hood knew.
Some are constantly being added, others are removed from her communion on earth, but her characteristic absolute identity remains.The Ordinance of Covenanting|John Cunningham
At least he understood how Jack Carlson had died, even if the mystery of the identity of the Eye had deepened.
British Dictionary definitions for identity
noun plural -ties
- that relation that holds only between any entity and itself
- an assertion that that relation holds, as Cicero is Tully
- an equation that is valid for all values of its variables, as in (x – y)(x + y) = x ² – y ². Often denoted by the symbol ≡
- Also called: identity element a member of a set that when operating on another member, x, produces that member x: the identity for multiplication of numbers is 1 since x .1 = 1. x = xSee also inverse (def. 2b)