• IPA: /ˈdʒʌstɪfaɪ/

justify (justifies, present participle justifying; past justified, past participle justified)

  1. (transitive) To provide an acceptable explanation for.
    How can you justify spending so much money on clothes?
    Paying too much for car insurance is not justified.
  2. (transitive) To be a good, acceptable reason for; warrant.
    Nothing can justify your rude behaviour last night.
    • 1861, Edward Everett, The Great Issues Now Before the Country, An oration delivered at the New York Academy of Music, July 4, 1861, New York: James G. Gregory, p. 8,
      Unless the oppression is so extreme as to justify revolution, it would not justify the evil of breaking up a government, under an abstract constitutional right to do so.
  3. (transitive) To arrange (text) on a page or a computer screen such that the left and right ends of all lines within paragraphs are aligned.
    The text will look better justified.
  4. (transitive) To absolve, and declare to be free of blame or sin.
    • circa 1590 William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act II, Scene 3,
      I cannot justify whom the law condemns.
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Book of Acts 13.39,
      And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
  5. (reflexive) To give reasons for one’s actions; to make an argument to prove that one is in the right.
    She felt no need to justify herself for deciding not to invite him.
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Gospel of Luke 16.15,
      And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
    • 1848, Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Chapter 13,
      […] I was equally unable to justify myself and unwilling to acknowledge my errors […]
  6. To prove; to ratify; to confirm.
    • circa 1608 William Shakespeare, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Act V, Scene 1,
      She is not dead at Tarsus, as she should have been,
      By savage Cleon: she shall tell thee all;
      When thou shalt kneel, and justify in knowledge
      She is thy very princess.
    • circa 1610 William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale, Act I, Scene 2,
      […] say
      My wife’s a hobby-horse, deserves a name
      As rank as any flax-wench that puts to
      Before her troth-plight: say’t and justify’t.
  7. (legal) To show (a person) to have had a sufficient legal reason for an act that has been made the subject of a charge or accusation.
  8. (legal) To qualify (oneself) as a surety by taking oath to the ownership of sufficient property.
    • 1839, John Bouvier, Bouvier's Law Dictionary, Philadelphia: T. & J.W. Johnson, Volume I, p. 557,
      JUSTIFYING BAIL, practice, is the production of bail in court, who there justify themselves against the exception of the plaintiff.
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