“Infer” vs. “imply” — can “infer” imply “imply”?

Okay that’s a crazy title, but bear with me. Got into a good natured discussion with someone on another stack exchange site, and I was “correcting” him on the use of infer vs. imply.

(The discussion can be found here: https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/8471/did-eleanor-roosevelt-say-that-the-jews-brought-the-holocaust-on-themselves/8485?noredirect=1#comment60705_8485)

He pointed me to a dictionary entry for “infer” that seems to use the definition for imply.


The 4th definition that is given there reads:

suggest, hint – “are you inferring I’m incompetent?”

That, to me, is a classic example of where someone should not use “infer”, but should use “imply”. But maybe I’m wrong?

Granted, it’s the 4th of four definitions, and so presumably less common, but I thought the two, “imply” and “infer” had totally distinct meanings. According to definition #4 on that link “infer” can imply “imply”.

Am I nuts? Am I the only one surprised by this? (very possible…I’m often surprised by English). Or is it possible that the dictionary is…something less than accurate? It’s not a mom-and-pop shop, so that seems unlikely…but I throw it out there as a possibility…but if the dictionary is wrong, where do you go to to find evidence of it? (Who watches the watchmen?)


The same Merriam-Webster link provides the answer further down.

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.

Source : Link , Question Author : Beska , Answer Author : Oddthinking

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