You might identify a Ming dynasty vase, a suspect in a bank robbery, or an ivory-billed woodpecker. Whatever it is, when you recognize the identity of someone or something, you identify it.

The word identify is easy to...well...identify when you notice how much it looks like the word identity (a noun, meaning who or what something is). Only one consonant separates the two words in spelling ("f" vs. "t"), and they are close relatives in meaning as well. You can easily remember the meaning of identify, a verb, when you recognize that it’s just a way to express the act of establishing identity — in other words, saying who or what something is.

Primary Meanings of identify

recognize as being; establish the identity of someone or something
conceive of as united or associated
Full Definitions of identify

v recognize as being; establish the identity of someone or something

“She identified the man on the 'wanted' poster”
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differentiate, distinguish, secern, secernate, separate, severalise, severalize, tell, tell apart
mark as different
be able to distinguish, recognize as being different
discriminate, know apart
recognize or perceive the difference
distinguish (an element or atom) by using a radioactive isotope or an isotope of unusual mass for tracing through chemical reactions
distinguish (as a compound or molecule) by introducing a labeled atom
tell the sex (of young chickens)
individualise, individualize
make or mark or treat as individual
put in opposition to show or emphasize differences
severalise, severalize
distinguish or separate
distinguish by contrasting qualities
decouple, dissociate
regard as unconnected
separate clearly, as if by boundaries
discriminate, separate, single out
treat differently on the basis of sex or race
divide society into social classes or castes
Type of:
determine, set
fix conclusively or authoritatively

v give the name or identifying characteristics of; refer to by name or some other identifying characteristic property

“The almanac identifies the auspicious months”
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enumerate, itemise, itemize, recite
specify individually
list, number
give the names of
list, name
give or make a list of; name individually; give the names of
itemise, itemize
place on a list of items
Type of:
denote, refer
have as a meaning

v identify as in botany or biology, for example


v conceive of as united or associated

“Sex activity is closely identified with the hypothalamus”
Type of:
associate, colligate, connect, link, link up, relate, tie in
make a logical or causal connection

v consider to be equal or the same

“He identified his brother as one of the fugitives”
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misidentify, mistake
identify incorrectly
type, typecast
identify as belonging to a certain type
distinguish flavors
conflate, confound, confuse
mistake one thing for another
Type of:
recognise, recognize
perceive to be the same

v consider (oneself) as similar to somebody else

“He identified with the refugees”
Type of:
consider, reckon, regard, see, view
deem to be

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