• synonyms


[ih-nish-uh l]
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  1. of, relating to, or occurring at the beginning; first: the initial step in a process.
  2. Phonetics. occurring at the beginning of a word or syllable, as the (k) sound of kite, chasm, or quay.
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  1. an initial letter, as of a word.
  2. the first letter of a proper name.
  3. a letter of extra size or an ornamental character used at the beginning of a chapter or other division of a book, manuscript, or the like.
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verb (used with object), in·i·tialed, in·i·tial·ing or (especially British) in·i·tialled, in·i·tial·ling.
  1. to mark or sign with an initial or the initials of one's name, especially as a token of preliminary or informal approval.
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Origin of initial

1520–30; < Latin initiālis, equivalent to initi(um) beginning (init-, noun derivative of inīre to enter, begin; in- in-2 + īre to go; cf. comes) + -ium -ium) + -alis -al1
Related formsin·i·tial·er, nounin·i·tial·ly, adverbpre·in·i·tial, verb (used with object)sub·in·i·tial, verb (used with object), sub·in·i·tialed, sub·in·i·tial·ing or (especially British) sub·in·i·tialled, sub·in·i·tial·ling.un·in·i·tialed, adjectiveun·in·i·tialled, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

lettering, impress, seal, endorse, confirm, ink, subsidize, secure, finance, provide, bankroll, sponsor, approve, guarantee, buy, owe, negotiate, settle, undertake, agree

Examples from the Web for initialing

Historical Examples

  • These latter, rashly or otherwise, had guaranteed its accuracy by initialing it.

    Observations of an Orderly

    Ward Muir

  • You are initialing now each page below by initial, and you are signing your name to the first page below my signature?

    Warren Commission (12 of 26): Hearings Vol. XII (of 15)

    The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy

British Dictionary definitions for initialing


  1. of, at, or concerning the beginning
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  1. the first letter of a word, esp a person's name
  2. printing a large sometimes highly decorated letter set at the beginning of a chapter or work
  3. botany a cell from which tissues and organs develop by division and differentiation; a meristematic cell
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verb -tials, -tialling or -tialled or US -tials, -tialing or -tialed
  1. (tr) to sign with one's initials, esp to indicate approval; endorse
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Derived Formsinitialer or initialler, nouninitially, adverb

Word Origin

C16: from Latin initiālis of the beginning, from initium beginning, literally: an entering upon, from inīre to go in, from in- ² + īre to go
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 initialing



"to mark or sign with initials," 1864, American English, from initial (n.). Related: Initialed; initialing.

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"initial letter of a name or surname," 1620s, from initial (adj.) in a specialized sense "standing at the beginning of a word, sentence, etc."

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1520s, "of or pertaining to a beginning," from Middle French initial or directly from Latin initialis "initial, incipient," from initium "a beginning, an entrance," from past participle stem of inire "to go into, enter upon, begin," from in- "into, in" (see in- (2)) + ire "to go" (see ion).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper