Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To demonstrate or prove to be just, right, or valid: justified each budgetary expense as necessary; anger that is justified by the circumstances.
  • transitive v. To declare free of blame; absolve.
  • transitive v. To free (a human) of the guilt and penalty attached to grievous sin. Used of God.
  • transitive v. Law To demonstrate sufficient legal reason for (an action taken).
  • transitive v. Law To prove to be qualified as a bondsman.
  • transitive v. Printing To adjust the spacing within (lines in a document, for example), so that the lines end evenly at a straight margin.
  • intransitive v. Printing To be adjusted in spacing so as to end evenly at the margin.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To provide an acceptable explanation for.
  • v. To be a good, acceptable reason for; warrant.
  • v. To arrange (text) on a page or a computer screen such that the left and right ends of all lines within paragraphs are aligned.
  • v. To absolve, and declare to be free of blame or sin

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To form an even surface or true line with something else; to fit exactly.
  • intransitive v. To take oath to the ownership of property sufficient to qualify one's self as bail or surety.
  • transitive v. To prove or show to be just; to vindicate; to maintain or defend as conformable to law, right, justice, propriety, or duty.
  • transitive v. To pronounce free from guilt or blame; to declare or prove to have done that which is just, right, proper, etc.; to absolve; to exonerate; to clear.
  • transitive v. To treat as if righteous and just; to pardon; to exculpate; to absolve.
  • transitive v. To prove; to ratify; to confirm.
  • transitive v. To make even or true, as lines of type, by proper spacing; to align (text) at the left (left justify) or right (right justify) margins of a column or page, or at both margins; to adjust, as type. See Justification, 4.
  • transitive v.
  • transitive v. 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.
  • transitive v. To qualify (one's self) as a surety by taking oath to the ownership of sufficient property.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To prove or show to be just or conformable to reason, justice, duty, law, or propriety; vindicate; warrant; uphold.
  • To declare innocent or blameless; absolve; acquit; specifically, to free from the guilt or penalty of sin; reconcile to God.
  • To prove (any one) to be.
  • To make exact; cause to fit or be adapted, as the parts of a complex object; adjust, as lines or columns in printing.
  • To judge; pass judgment upon; hence, to punish with death; execute.
  • To agree; match; conform exactly; form an even surface or true line with something else: as, in printing, two lines of nonpareil and one of pica justify.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. show to be reasonable or provide adequate ground for
  • v. let off the hook
  • v. defend, explain, clear away, or make excuses for by reasoning
  • v. adjust the spaces between words
  • v. show to be right by providing justification or proof

Etymologies

Middle English justifien, from Old French justifier, from Late Latin iūstificāre, from Latin, to act justly toward : iūstus, just; see just1 + -ficāre, -fy.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin justificare ("make just"), from justus, iustus ("just"), + to make, from facere. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • But our English verb to be right had never taken a Hiphil form, or power, and for this reason, perhaps, the translators passed over, in many instances, to the Latin word justify, adopting that; though they sometimes manufacture a phrase that carries the causative meaning.

    The Vicarious Sacrifice, Grounded in Principles of Universal Obligation.

  • The same tendency to justify from the surface and not trust the public to understand the depth has been visible in President Obama's partial explanations of Afghanistan.

    David Bromwich: The Dying Art of Political Explanation

  • While hard to justify from a financial point of view, from a strategic point of view this makes sense.

    An Offer Yahoo Can’t Refuse - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com

  • Huh? Remember, the distinction that the court has to justify is different punishment for sex with a minor.

    IsThatLegal?

  • We have seen several examples in the last two years of situations which were handled very poorly and of decisions which were hard to justify from a purely economic point of view.

    Quebec Update

  • The word justify means to declare or treat as righteous.

    Barnes New Testament Notes

  • The word justify, 'like its opposite, to declare guilty,' is a forensic term and is thence applied to the act of the Supreme Judge -- God.

    The Beginnings of Christianity. Vol. I.

  • The word justify, 'with the new meaning attached to it, is ambiguous; the position of God who as judge declares the sinner to be righteous, is confusing; the value attached to the creed of the Church as the decisive factor in the judgment is fraught with evil consequences, and the proof from the Old Testament is arbitrary and artificial.

    The Beginnings of Christianity. Vol. I.

  • We believe, teach, and confess that the word justify in this phrasi Scripturae Sacrae, in hoc articulo, idem significare, quod absolvere a peccatis, ut ex dicto Salomonis (Prov.xvii. 15) intelligi potest: 'Qui justificat impium, et qui condemnat justum, abominabilis est uterque apud Deum.'

    The Creeds of the Evangelical Protestant Churches.

  • Thus the word justify, doth signify variously, according to the subject or matter it is applied to; but when it is applied to a sinner, it signifies nothing else but pardon of his sin.

    The Works of Dr. John Tillotson, Late Archbishop of Canterbury. Vol. 09.

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