Insinuate vs Infer vs Imply: Explained

If you get confused between insinuate vs infer vs imply, this guide will help you figure out the differences.

When writing in English, understanding the nuances of words with similar meanings is helpful. Insinuate and infer are two commonly confused words. While similar, they are not identical in meaning. 

Looking at the definitions and etymology of these words will help you use them properly when you write. This guide will help you understand the differences between insinuate vs infer. If you liked this post, you might also be interested in our lead vs. led guide.

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Insinuate Vs Infer Vs Imply: What Does the Dictionary Say?

Insinuate Vs Infer Vs Imply

To insinuate something and to infer something means almost the same thing, but a skilled writer will know how to tell the difference. If you want to master the English language, take some time to learn the definitions of these words.

Definition of Insinuate

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word insinuate when used as a transitive verb means:

  • To impart or suggest in an indirect way
  • To introduce gradually or subtly

Here are some examples:

  • Instead of making a direct statement about his feelings, he insinuated his distrust of his friend through snide remarks.
  • You can insinuate your disinterest without stating it directly simply by your body language.
  • The spy insinuated himself into the crime ring in order to gather data.

Insinuate also has a noun form, the word insinuation. This word means an unpleasant suggestion or a hint of something with negative connotations. Here are some examples:

  • His tone of voice had vicious insinuations, even though his words were kind.
  • I do not deserve the insinuation you are making with that statement.

Synonyms of Insinuate 

Some synonyms of the word insinuate include:

  • Inflitrate
  • Sneak
  • Wriggle
  • Work in
  • Slip
  • Imply 
  • Hint

Etymology of Insinuate

Insinuate comes from the Latin word insinuatus. This means to bend or to curve. It also has its root in the word sinus, which means curve. 

Definition of Infer

Insinuate Vs Infer Vs Imply
Infer can also mean to suggest or hint

According to the dictionary, infer means the following:

  • To derive as a conclusion from facts
  • To guess or surmise
  • To point out 
  • To suggest or hint
  • To draw inferences

In most cases, it is a transitive verb, but it can occasionally show up as an intransitive verb. Here are some examples:

  • The survey infers that the majority of people are comfortable with the vaccination.
  • I was able to infer from your letter that you were interested in making the move.
  • When we see smoke, we infer fire.

Synonyms of Infer

The word infer has a similar meaning to these words:

  • Conclude
  • Decide
  • Deduce
  • Extrapolate
  • Gather
  • Reason
  • Understand
  • Judge

Etymology of Infer

Infer first became part of the English language in 1528, so it is a long-known word. It has its origins in Middle French with the word inferer and Latin with the word inferre. These words mean to carry or bring into.

Definition of Imply

Imply is a word that often gets mixed up with insinuate and infer. Imply means to suggest as a logical or necessary consequence. In contrast, insinuate means to hint.

Imply is a synonym for insinuate, but insinuate has more of a negative connotation than imply. 

How Infer and Insinuate Are different

Though some people mistakenly use them the same way, infer and insinuate have very different definitions. Inferring something means to draw a conclusion through reasoning or deduction. Insinuate means to imply by artful means or infiltrate.

To better understand these words and their meanings, take a closer look at some example sentences:

  • Inferring too much from the political scene is dangerous.
  • Please do not infer an indirect suggestion from my statement, but rather take it at face value.
  • He insinuated himself into the king’s good graces in order to gain his trust. 
  • The dog imperceptibly growled at his owner, insinuating that he would get angry if the man continued to tease him.

A Final Word on Insinuate vs Infer

Insinuate and infer are very different words. They are not even listed in the thesaurus as synonyms. However, in spoken English, these words often get used in place of each other, which creates confusion.

To insinuate means to creep into something or to imply a negative feeling or emotion. To infer means to come to a conclusion using logic. These are very different meanings, which means skilled writers must use them correctly.

FAQs on Insinuate vs Infer

Do insinuate and infer mean the same thing?

No, insinuate means to hint or imply something, often negative, without a direct statement. Infer means to come to a logical conclusion. These words are often used incorrectly for each other.

Do insinuate and imply mean the same thing?

No, insinuate means to hit at something, while imply means to have something happen as a necessary consequence.


  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.