Definition of recognize in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈrɛkəɡnʌɪz/
(also recognise)


[with object]
1Identify (someone or something) from having encountered them before; know again: I recognized her when her wig fell off Julia hardly recognized Jill when they met
More example sentences
  • She said she hardly recognized her place when she got back to it.
  • They both were dressed like fashion models and wore so much makeup you hardly recognized them.
  • At first glance one would hardly recognize the place from the pictures the world saw on television in 1989.
1.1Identify from knowledge of appearance or character: Pat is very good at recognizing wild flowers
More example sentences
  • Because smallpox is typically transmitted via direct contact with an infected person, the presence of smallpox could be recognized by the appearance of symptoms.
  • Because pediatric cases of the condition are rarely recognized or reported, knowledge is limited and is based mostly on case reports and small numbers of patients.
  • The condition can be recognized by the appearance of a red line along the edge of the ‘paddlers’ at the rear of the crab.
identify, place, know, know again, pick out, put a name to;
remember, recall, recollect, call to mind;
Scottish & Northern English  ken
rare agnize
1.2(Of a computer or other machine) automatically identify and respond correctly to (a sound, printed character, etc.): Dr Friedman is programming his computer to recognize the shapes of strokes in the hands of various writers
More example sentences
  • Unlike many portables which require you to download drivers first, this one will plug into any computer and be recognised as a hard disk for you to transfer files.
  • How do I go about disabling the on-board sound so that the computer will recognize and use the new sound card?
  • We will develop computer software to automatically recognize the genre of documents by exploiting observed regularities of substance and form.
2Acknowledge the existence, validity, or legality of: the defence is recognized in British law he was recognized as an international authority
More example sentences
  • Throughout the world, paternity leave has been recognized as an important means of reconciling the professional and familial lives of workers.
  • Excessive body fat, especially in areas such as the abdomen, is increasingly recognized as an important risk factor for killers like heart disease and diabetes.
  • Networking with experts in other disciplines and collaborating with statisticians should be recognized as an important way to conduct research and disseminate findings.
realize, be aware of, be conscious of, perceive, discern, appreciate, understand, apprehend, see, be cognizant of
informal take on board
rare cognize
officially approve, certify, accredit, endorse, sanction, put the seal of approval on;
acknowledge, validate, accept as valid, ratify, uphold, support
2.1Show official appreciation of; reward formally: his work was recognized by an honorary degree from Glasgow University
More example sentences
  • Carers in Portlaoise are being formally recognised for the first time with City & Guild certificates.
  • The Army must also reward or recognize those who serve in positions that cultivate the broad perspectives that are necessary to acquire strategic leadership skills.
  • The bravery of seven Solomon Islands men who rescued three Australian soldiers on August 30 has been formally recognised.
pay tribute to, show appreciation of, appreciate, give recognition to, show gratitude to, be grateful for, acclaim, commend, salute, applaud, take one's hat off to, reward, honour, pay homage to
2.2Officially regard (a qualification) as valid or proper: these qualifications are recognized by the Department of Education
More example sentences
  • Only if they pass these stages will they sit a final exam and gain the St Andrews Standard, a qualification that will be recognised around the world.
  • We feared in the past that mainland academic qualifications would not be recognised and we could not get a job with that.
  • But she admitted that the intermediate qualifications were not being recognised by employers.
2.3Grant diplomatic recognition to (a country or government): countries which recognized East Germany they were refusing to recognize the puppet regime
More example sentences
  • He called on other opposition political leaders to fully recognise the new Government and work with it to develop Zambia.
  • The resolution paves the way for an internationally recognised representative Government of Iraq to be formed.
  • On a brief visit to Fiji, New Zealand Foreign Minister Geoff Goff declared that his country refused to recognise the interim government as constitutional.
2.4(Of a person presiding at a meeting or debate) call on (someone) to speak.
Example sentences
  • As the presiding officer, he recognises those members who wish to speak.
  • The gentleman's time is expired. The Chair recognizes Governor Thompson.
  • The chair recognized Representative Hochberg to explain the measure.



Example sentences
  • Once the patterns are established, the recognizer can make the matches and guess that a speaker is angry because they are speaking louder and with exaggerated emphasis.
  • Feature recognizers check the headers or the body of the e-mail looking for patterns that human beings have identified as markers of spam or non-spam mail.
  • Early speech-recognition systems were discrete speech recognizers requiring users to pause between each word for 200 milliseconds.


Late Middle English (earliest attested as a term in Scots law): from Old French reconniss-, stem of reconnaistre, from Latin recognoscere 'know again, recall to mind', from re- 'again' + cognoscere 'learn'.

  • To recognize someone is literally to know them again, from Latin recognoscere, from re- ‘again’ and cognoscere ‘to know’. Already in Latin this had developed logical extensions to the senses such as ‘examine, acknowledge, certify’. It was in these legal senses that the word first entered English, alongside recognition. Its use to mean ‘know by some distinctive feature’ dates only from the early 18th century. Reconnaissance (early 19th century) and reconnoitre (early 18th century) both come from the French form of the word, reconnoître. See quaint

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: rec¦og|nize

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.