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infer

[ in-fur ]
/ ɪnˈfɜr /
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See synonyms for: infer / inferred / inferring / infers on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object), in·ferred, in·fer·ring.

to derive by reasoning; conclude or judge from premises or evidence: They inferred his displeasure from his cool tone of voice.
(of facts, circumstances, statements, etc.) to indicate or involve as a conclusion; lead to.
to guess; speculate; surmise.
to hint; imply; suggest.

verb (used without object), in·ferred, in·fer·ring.

to draw a conclusion, as by reasoning.

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Origin of infer

First recorded in 1520–30; from Latin inferre, equivalent to in- + ferre “to bring, carry, bear”; see origin at in-2, bear1

usage note for infer

Infer has been used to mean “to hint or suggest” since the 16th century by speakers and writers of unquestioned ability and eminence: The next speaker criticized the proposal, inferring that it was made solely to embarrass the government. Despite its long history, many usage guides condemn the use, maintaining that the proper word for the intended sense is imply and that to use infer is to lose a valuable distinction between the two words.
Although the claimed distinction has probably existed chiefly in the pronouncements of usage guides, and although the use of infer to mean “to suggest” usually produces no ambiguity, the distinction too has a long history and is widely observed by many speakers and writers.

historical usage of infer

The English verb infer has always been used in logic to mean “to conclude by reasoning or from evidence.” It comes from the Latin verb inferre “to carry in, enter, introduce, inflict,” composed of the prefix in- “in, into” and ferre “to carry, bear.” Inferre meaning “to conclude, draw an inference, infer” is very rare in Latin, occurring only in the writings of Cicero (106–43 b.c.), Roman statesman and man of letters, and the great, commonsensical Roman rhetorician Quintilian (who lived about a.d. 35–95).

OTHER WORDS FROM infer

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH infer

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

INFER VS. IMPLY

What's the difference between infer and imply?

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

Infer and imply 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 infer and imply 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 infer and imply.

Quiz yourself on infer vs. imply!

Should infer or imply be used in the following sentence?

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

Example sentences from the Web for infer

British Dictionary definitions for infer

infer
/ (ɪnˈfɜː) /

verb -fers, -ferring or -ferred (when tr, may take a clause as object)

to conclude (a state of affairs, supposition, etc) by reasoning from evidence; deduce
(tr) to have or lead to as a necessary or logical consequence; indicate
(tr) to hint or imply

Derived forms of infer

inferable, inferible, inferrable or inferrible, adjectiveinferably, adverbinferrer, noun

Word Origin for infer

C16: from Latin inferre to bring into, from ferre to bear, carry

usage for infer

The use of infer to mean imply is becoming more and more common in both speech and writing. There is nevertheless a useful distinction between the two which many people would be in favour of maintaining. To infer means `to deduce', and is used in the construction to infer something from something : I inferred from what she said that she had not been well . To imply (sense 1) means `to suggest, to insinuate' and is normally followed by a clause: are you implying that I was responsible for the mistake?
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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