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verb (used with object), in·ferred, in·fer·ring.
  1. to derive by reasoning; conclude or judge from premises or evidence: They inferred his displeasure from his cool tone of voice.
  2. (of facts, circumstances, statements, etc.) to indicate or involve as a conclusion; lead to.
  3. to guess; speculate; surmise.
  4. to hint; imply; suggest.
verb (used without object), in·ferred, in·fer·ring.
  1. to draw a conclusion, as by reasoning.

Origin of infer

1520–30; < Latin inferre, equivalent to in- in-2 + ferre to bring, carry, bear1
Related formsin·fer·a·ble, in·fer·i·ble, in·fer·ri·ble, adjectivein·fer·a·bly, adverbin·fer·rer, nounmis·in·fer, verb, mis·in·ferred, mis·in·fer·ring.non·in·fer·a·ble, adjectivenon·in·fer·a·bly, adverbpre·in·fer, verb (used with object), pre·in·ferred, pre·in·fer·ring.qua·si-in·ferred, adjectivere·in·fer, verb (used with object), re·in·ferred, re·in·fer·ring.sub·in·fer, verb, sub·in·ferred, sub·in·fer··per·in·fer, verb (used with object), su·per·in·ferred, su·per·in·fer·ring.un·in·fer·a·ble, adjectiveun·in·fer·a·bly, adverbun·in·ferred, adjectiveun·in·fer·ri·ble, adjectiveun·in·fer·ri·bly, adverb
Can be confusedimply infer (see usage note at the current entry)

Synonyms for infer

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Usage note

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 20th-century 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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Contemporary Examples of infer

Historical Examples of infer

British Dictionary definitions for infer


verb -fers, -ferring or -ferred (when tr, may take a clause as object)
  1. to conclude (a state of affairs, supposition, etc) by reasoning from evidence; deduce
  2. (tr) to have or lead to as a necessary or logical consequence; indicate
  3. (tr) to hint or imply
Derived Formsinferable, inferible, inferrable or inferrible, adjectiveinferably, adverbinferrer, noun

Word Origin for infer

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


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

Word Origin and History for infer

1520s, from Latin inferre "bring into, carry in; deduce, infer, conclude, draw an inference; bring against," from in- "in" (see in- (2)) + ferre "carry, bear," from PIE *bher- (1) "to bear, to carry, to take" (cf. Sanskrit bharati "carries;" Avestan baraiti "carries;" Old Persian barantiy "they carry;" Armenian berem "I carry;" Greek pherein "to carry;" Old Irish beru/berim "I catch, I bring forth;" Gothic bairan "to carry;" Old English and Old High German beran, Old Norse bera "barrow;" Old Church Slavonic birati "to take;" Russian brat' "to take," bremya "a burden"). Sense of "draw a conclusion" is first attested 1520s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper