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From Middle English specifien, from Old French specifier, especefier, or directly from Medieval Latin specificō, from specificus (specific).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈspɛs.ɪ.faɪ/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈspɛs.əˌfaɪ/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: spe‧ci‧fy


specify (third-person singular simple present specifies, present participle specifying, simple past and past participle specified)

  1. (transitive) To state explicitly, or in detail, or as a condition.
    • 1425 November 5, William Paston, James Gairdner, editor, Paston Letters, new edition, volume I, London: Edward Arber, published 1872, page 20:
      I was nevere somouned, ne never hadde tydynges of this matier but by seyd lettres and other fleying tales that I heve herd sithen, ne nevere hadde to do more with the seyd John Wortes than is specified in the seyd instruccion.
    • c. 1440, William Aldis Wright, editor, Generydes (in Middle English), London: N. Trübner & Co., published 1878, lines 1950–3, page 63:
      Thanne after came A riall ordenaunce, / Too myghty princes with a grete pusaunce, / ffro Masedeyn and owt of Arkadye, / Ther cowde no man the nowmber specifie.
      Then, after a royal ordinance, two mighty princes came and brought a great host of men from Macedonia and Arcadia, so many that no one could specify the number.
    • 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Commodity”, in Nature, Boston: James Monroe and Company, page 18:
      But there is no need of specifying particulars in this class of uses. The catalogue is endless, and the examples so obvious, that I shall leave them to the reader’s reflection, with the general remark, that this mercenary benefit is one which has respect to a farther good. A man is fed, not that he may be fed, but that he may work.
  2. (transitive) To include in a specification.
  3. (transitive) To bring about a specific result.
  4. (intransitive, obsolete) To speak explicitly or in detail (often used with of).
    • c. 1300, Richard Morris, editor, Cursor Mundi [Runner of the World], volume I (in Middle English), London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., published 1893, lines 27958–9, page 1548:
      Forthermar o þis lecheri / Agh i þe noght to specifie []
      I will not speak explicitly about this lechery any further.


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