[in-duh-vij-oo-uh l]



Origin of individual

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 formsin·ter·in·di·vid·u·al, adjectivenon·in·di·vid·u·al, adjectivesu·per·in·di·vid·u·al, adjective, nounsu·per·in·di·vid·u·al·ly, adverbtrans·in·di·vid·u·al, adjective
Can be confusedindividual 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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for individual

Contemporary Examples of individual

Historical Examples of individual

  • 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; particularplease 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: particularan object as opposed to a property or class
  2. an element of the domain of discourse of a theory
Derived Formsindividually, adverb

Word Origin for individual

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

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