Definition of individual in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌindəˈvij(o͞o)əl/


1 [attributive] Single; separate: individual tiny flowers
More example sentences
  • There are so many wonderful performances here, it would be pointless to single out individual cast members for praise.
  • The cast is really rather too large to single any one member out for individual comment.
  • Separate individual competitions for men and women are scheduled and they will be divided into junior and senior groups.
single, separate, discrete, independent, solo;
sole, lone, solitary, isolated
2Of or for a particular person: the individual needs of the children
More example sentences
  • We have different activities and approaches and we try and make individual care plans for each person.
  • Research has shown that people reduce their use of health care after individual psychotherapy.
  • They want each patient to be given an individual care plan tailored to their needs following rapid access to an expert diagnosis and assessment.
2.1Designed for use by one person: individual serving dishes
More example sentences
  • Its serving order and individual portions is Western and the use of the chopsticks is Oriental.
  • You can make it in individual serving dishes for a special dessert or one big pan for everyone to dive into.
  • The mainstay of our order was nigiri sushi (fish on individual portions of sushi rice).
2.2Characteristic of a particular person or thing: individual traits of style
More example sentences
  • This didactic function tended to diminish many characteristics of individual style.
  • There are at least six different forms of lightning, each with their own individual characteristics and colours.
  • However, all models will have their own individual body styles and dynamic characteristics.
characteristic, distinctive, distinct, typical, particular, peculiar, personal, personalized, special;
original, unique, exclusive, singular, idiosyncratic, different, unusual, novel, unorthodox, atypical, out of the ordinary, one of a kind
2.3Having a striking or unusual character; original: she creates her own, highly individual, landscapes
More example sentences
  • It's a great showcase of local talent and the perfect place to pick up an unusual and individual Christmas gift.
  • York was once renowned for its individual shops selling unusual merchandise, that is what the visitors expect.
  • I prefer things that are individual with a really interesting design aesthetic.


1A single human being as distinct from a group, class, or family: boat trips for parties and individuals
More example sentences
  • You can be yourself, and the basis of unity is that you are a human being and an individual.
  • Of course all references to groups are ultimately references to distinct individuals.
  • When you look deeply inside you will find that we are all individuals and human beings.
1.1A single member of a class: they live in a group or as individuals, depending on the species
More example sentences
  • Most of the whales in the area during the hunt were large single individuals.
  • With simple viability selection and random mating, the selection group is a single individual.
  • Plants often fertilize themselves to at least some extent, so polyploid species can arise from a single individual.
1.2 [with adjective] informal A person of a specified kind: the most selfish, egotistical individual I have ever met
More example sentences
  • I've come to the conclusion that I am a selfish heartless individual.
  • Bad manners are the outward sign of a seriously selfish individual.
  • No right-thinking individual can ever be persuaded that hatred and hostility is an answer to anything.
person, human being, mortal, soul, creature;
man, boy, woman, girl;
character, personage
informal type, sort, customer, guy
1.3A distinctive or original person.
individualist, free spirit, nonconformist, original, eccentric, character, maverick, rare bird, something else


Late Middle English (in the sense 'indivisible'): from medieval Latin individualis, from Latin individuus, from in- 'not' + dividuus 'divisible' (from dividere 'to divide').

  • divide from Middle English:

    English adopted divide from Latin dividere ‘to force apart, remove’ in the Middle Ages. The maxim divide and rule, recommending that a ruler or government set factions against each other so that they will not unite against the powers that be, is also of Latin origin: divide et impera. People often attribute it to the Renaissance Italian statesman and political philosopher Machiavelli ( see Machiavellian), but in fact he denounced the principle. Dividend (Late Middle English) comes from the same Latin root, and originally meant ‘something to be divided’, while individual (Late Middle English) comes from the Latin for ‘not divisible’. See also widow

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: in·di·vid·u·al

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