[ ih-nish-uhl ]
See synonyms for: initialinitialedinitialinginitialled on

  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.

  1. an initial letter, as of a word.

  2. the first letter of a proper name.

  1. 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.

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.

Origin of initial

First recorded in 1520–30; from 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

Other words from initial

  • in·i·tial·er, noun
  • in·i·tial·ly, adverb
  • pre·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; (especially British) un·in·i·tialled, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use initial in a sentence

  • I rubbed in the spot indicated, and out came the crest and initials exactly as Jack had described them.

    Uncanny Tales | Various
  • To Lucy Warrender, who now heard of the matter for the first time, these initials were no enigma.

  • Her name and his initials were all that was written in the book; very carefully she cut out the entire page.

    Tessa Wadsworth's Discipline | Jennie M. Drinkwater
  • There was nothing in the pockets of the overcoat, but inside the hat he found pasted the initials L. P.

    Dope | Sax Rohmer
  • We might cite the initials of many more of those who found themselves, not without some mutual surprise, side by side in one room.

    Camille (La Dame aux Camilias) | Alexandre Dumas, fils

British Dictionary definitions for initial


/ (ɪˈnɪʃəl) /

  1. of, at, or concerning the beginning

  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

  1. botany a cell from which tissues and organs develop by division and differentiation; a meristematic cell

verb-tials, -tialling or -tialled or US -tials, -tialing or -tialed
  1. (tr) to sign with one's initials, esp to indicate approval; endorse

Origin of initial

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

Derived forms of initial

  • initialer or initialler, noun
  • initially, adverb

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