Etymology: Middle French or Latin; Middle French inferer, from Latin inferre, literally, to carry or bring into, from in- + ferre to carry — more at bear
1. to derive as a conclusion from facts or premises <we see smoke and infer fire — L. A. White> — compare imply 2. guess, surmise <your letter…allows me to infer that you are as well as ever — O. W. Holmes †1935> 3. a. to involve as a normal outcome of thought b. to point out ; indicate <this doth infer the zeal I had to see him — Shakespeare> <another survey…infers that two-thirds of all present computer installations are not paying for themselves — H. R. Chellman> 4. suggest, hint <are you inferring I'm incompetent?> intransitive verb to draw inferences <men…have observed, inferred, and reasoned…to all kinds of results — John Dewey> • inferable also inferrible adjective • inferrer noun Synonyms: infer, deduce, conclude, judge, gather mean to arrive at a mental conclusion. infer implies arriving at a conclusion by reasoning from evidence; if the evidence is slight, the term comes close to surmise <from that remark, I inferred that they knew each other>. deduce often adds to infer the special implication of drawing a particular inference from a generalization <denied we could deduce anything important from human mortality>. conclude implies arriving at a necessary inference at the end of a chain of reasoning <concluded that only the accused could be guilty>. judge stresses a weighing of the evidence on which a conclusion is based <judge people by their actions>. gather suggests an intuitive forming of a conclusion from implications <gathered their desire to be alone without a word>. Usage: Sir Thomas More is the first writer known to have used both infer and imply in their approved senses (1528). He is also the first to have used infer in a sense close in meaning to imply (1533). Both of these uses of infer coexisted without comment until some time around the end of World War I. Since then, senses 3 and 4 of infer have been frequently condemned as an undesirable blurring of a useful distinction. The actual blurring has been done by the commentators. Sense 3, descended from More's use of 1533, does not occur with a personal subject. When objections arose, they were to a use with a personal subject (now sense 4). Since dictionaries did not recognize this use specifically, the objectors assumed that sense 3 was the one they found illogical, even though it had been in respectable use for four centuries. The actual usage condemned was a spoken one never used in logical discourse. At present sense 4 is found in print chiefly in letters to the editor and other informal prose, not in serious intellectual writing. The controversy over sense 4 has apparently reduced the frequency of use of sense 3.
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.