[ im-plahy ]
/ ɪmˈplaɪ /
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See synonyms for: imply / implied / implies / implying on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object), im·plied, im·ply·ing.
to indicate or suggest without being explicitly stated: His words implied a lack of faith.
(of words) to signify or mean.
to involve as a necessary circumstance: Speech implies a speaker.
Obsolete. to enfold.
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Origin of imply

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English implien, emplien, from Middle French emplier, from Latin implicāre; see implicate

usage note for imply

See infer.


re·im·ply, verb (used with object), re·im·plied, re·im·ply·ing.su·per·im·ply, verb (used with object), su·per·im·plied, su·per·im·ply·ing.


imply , infer (see usage note at infer)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What's the difference between imply and infer?

To imply is to indicate or suggest something without actually stating it. Infer most commonly means to guess or use reasoning to come to a conclusion based on what has been suggested.

Imply and infer can be confused because they’re often used at opposite ends of the same situation. When someone implies something (suggests it without saying it explicitly), you have to infer their meaning (conclude what it is based on the hints that have been given).

For example, you might infer that your friend wants cake for their birthday because they keep talking about how much they like cake and reminding you that their birthday is coming up. Your friend didn’t actually ask for cake, but they implied that they want it by giving you hints. You used these hints to infer that they want cake.

Of course, there are situations in which you might infer something when nothing was implied or nothing was intended to be implied.

Probably due to the association between the two words, infer is sometimes used to mean the same thing as imply—to hint or suggest. Even though this can be confusing, the meaning of infer can usually be easily inferred from the context in which it’s used.

Here’s an example of imply and infer used correctly in a sentence.

Example: Even though he only implied that he may be in trouble, we correctly inferred that he was.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between imply and infer.

Quiz yourself on imply vs. infer!

Should imply or infer be used in the following sentence?

I _____ from your annoyed tone that you weren’t happy with your birthday cake.

How to use imply in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for imply

/ (ɪmˈplaɪ) /

verb -plies, -plying or -plied (tr; may take a clause as object)
to express or indicate by a hint; suggestwhat are you implying by that remark?
to suggest or involve as a necessary consequence
logic to enable (a conclusion) to be inferred
obsolete to entangle or enfold

Word Origin for imply

C14: from Old French emplier, from Latin implicāre to involve; see implicate

undefined imply

See infer
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