Word of the Day


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Origin of the word

In Latin, ‘justus’, meaning ‘just’ and ‘facere’, meaning ‘to do or to make’, were combined as ‘justificus’ or ‘righteous, dealing justly’. In Late Latin this became ‘justificare’, which meant to ‘make just or act justly towards’, and in the 12th century the Old French verb ‘justifier’ came to mean ‘submit to proceedings of the court’. Circa 1300, it meant ‘to administer justice’ and by the end of the 14th century it had become equivalent to the action of ‘showing (something) to be just or right’.

It wasn’t until the 1520s that justify took on the meaning of ‘declaring someone or something to be blameless or innocent’. By the 1630s, circumstances could be described as ‘affording justification’ and, in the 1550s, justifying text meant ‘making it exact’. Dating from the 1670s, this third meaning is now almost entirely restricted to typesetting.

Related words: justified, justifier, justifying, justifiable, justification, unjustified.


“Spiralling rates of pay for university vice-chancellors are to be curbed by a series of new measures being set out by the universities minister. Jo Johnson urged institutions to show restraint, when it emerged that dozens of university heads were earning £300,000, and some more than £400,000. Now, he wants universities to justify pay rates topping £150,000 a year to a new regulator, the Office for Students.” BBC News. 7 September 2017: University heads asked to justify pay over £150,000.

“Public utilities regulation is usually justified by the existence of a clear natural monopoly in an ‘essential’ sector, characterised by high barriers to entry.” The Telegraph. 4 August 2017: There is no justification for regulating online giants as if they were public utilities.

“You may find that fully-justified text is a necessity either due to space constraints or expectations of the audience. If possible though, try to break up dense blocks of texts with ample sub headings, margins, or graphics.” ThoughtCo. 23 July 2017: Use ragged right or full justification appropriately.


1. to show that there is a good reason for something, especially something that other people think is wrong
2. to be a good reason for something
3. to make the left or right edges of writing form a straight line when typing or printing

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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