verb (used with object), ap·plied, ap·ply·ing.

  1. to make use of as relevant, suitable, or pertinent: to apply a theory to a problem.
  2. to put to use, especially for a particular purpose: to apply pressure to open a door.
  3. to bring into action; use; employ: He applied the brakes and skidded to a stop.
  4. to use a label or other designation: Don’t apply any such term to me.
  5. to use for or assign to a specific purpose: He applied a portion of his salary each week to savings.
  6. to put into effect: They applied the rules to new members only.
  7. to devote or employ diligently or with close attention: to apply one’s mind to a problem; to apply oneself to a task.
  8. to place in contact with; lay or spread on: to apply paint to a wall; to apply a bandage to a wound.
  9. to bring into physical contact with or close proximity to: to apply a match to gunpowder.
  10. to credit to, as an account: to apply $10 to his account at the store.

verb (used without object), ap·plied, ap·ply·ing.

  1. to be pertinent, suitable, or relevant: The argument applies to the case. The theory doesn’t apply.
  2. to make an application or request; ask: to apply for a job; to apply for a raise.
  3. to lay or spread on: The plastic coating is easy to apply on any surface.
  4. to be placed or remain in contact: This paint doesn’t apply very easily.

verb -plies, -plying or -plied

  1. (tr) to put to practical use; utilize; employ
  2. (intr) to be relevant, useful, or appropriate
  3. (tr) to cause to come into contact with; put onto
  4. (intr often foll by for) to put in an application or request
  5. (tr often foll by to) to devote (oneself, one’s efforts) with diligence
  6. (tr) to bring into operation or usethe police only applied the law to aliens
  7. (tr) to refer (a word, epithet, etc) to a person or thing

also also reapply, 1723, from re- + apply. Related: Reapplied; reapplying.


late 14c., “to put (one’s faculties, etc.) to some task or career,” late 14c., from Old French aploiier “apply, use, attach” (12c., Modern French appliquer), from Latin applicare “attach to, join, connect;” figuratively, “devote (oneself) to, give attention,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + plicare “fold” (see ply (v.1)). The etymological sense is “bring things in contact with one another.” Of lotions, from early 15c. Meaning “seek a job by submitting an application for one” is from 1851. A by-form applicate is recorded from 1530s. Related: Applied; applying.

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