Definition of identity in English:



  • 1The fact of being who or what a person or thing is.

    ‘he knows the identity of the bombers’
    [mass noun] ‘she believes she is the victim of mistaken identity’
    • ‘There is also corroborating evidence from Interpol the documents provided by the couple to verify their Kola identity are in fact false.’
    • ‘Like the films they screen, the festival has its own share of ‘real-life’ high drama and plots based on mistaken identities.’
    • ‘What follows is a farrago of mistaken identities and gender reversals, a painful rip-off of Shakespeare in Love without any of the wit, charm or heart.’
    • ‘In fact the identity of these ‘planners’ is never sufficiently investigated.’
    • ‘All facts, including the identity of the killer, are assessed on the basis of a single criterion: the extent to which they serve their own cause.’
    • ‘Being one of the king's personal guests had given them a special status despite the fact that their identities had yet to be given.’
    • ‘The claimant has to prove not merely his own identity but also the fact of his parents' marriage.’
    • ‘Costumes are in pastel shades and of Fifties vintage, witty in their matching detail for the tale of two sets of identical twins and multiple mistaken identities.’
    • ‘It doesn't matter that the joke is about mistaken identity or the fact that they're chasing the wrong vehicle - Atkinson can make you laugh at it anyway.’
    • ‘The fact that the identity of the vessel was known at the time the Japanese forces were dispatched to hunt down the sub was revealed over the ensuing days.’
    • ‘‘The very item of disguise meant to hide his identity has in fact given it away,’ he added.’
    • ‘The homeless people, the mistaken identity, quite a few defenses at work here, and seeing what may or may not stick with this jury.’
    • ‘The only clue the police have to his identity is the fact that he appears to be a virtuoso stylophone player and only seems to be truly at ease when playing the magical instrument.’
    • ‘In fact, her identity as a citizen in urban India is one that is minimally developed, if at all.’
    • ‘It was a widely known fact that the identity of the five most powerful superhumans was a closely guarded secret.’
    • ‘I thought this would make people careful about concealing their true identities; in fact it led to more mayhem than I would have believed possible.’
    • ‘NBC has revealed the identities of the 18 contestants that will compete on The Biggest Loser's fourth season.’
    • ‘He initially gave a false name, but then revealed his true identity and the fact that he was banned from driving and had no insurance.’
    • ‘It's a tangled skein of mistaken identities and ordinary people caught up in extraordinary situations; call it Brothers on a Train.’
    • ‘Mistaken identity, of course, has been the province of much postcolonial fiction.’
    identification, recognition, naming, singling out, picking out, pinpointing, placing
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    1. 1.1The characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is.
      ‘he wanted to develop a more distinctive Scottish Tory identity’
      • ‘However, the fact that some tribal identities do not survive into later centuries underlines the political volatility of the period.’
      • ‘What should be one of the most important facts of our national identity is instead one of the government's most closely guarded secrets!’
      • ‘Children thus formulate their identities in ways that make rural connections essential to both their ethnic and national identities as productive citizens.’
      • ‘One commonly observed facet of the gay scene is that people often seek to define their very identities by the fact that they go to certain venues.’
      • ‘My appreciation of this country stems from the fact that our national identity is impossible to pin down.’
      • ‘The assumption is that the European nations have superior monocultural identities which are threatened by dark hordes who will destroy the democratic heart of the continent.’
      • ‘That is, what about people who deliberately disrupt the continuity that ordinarily characterizes our identity?’
      • ‘History has proven that such integration movements on the whole have given new strength to national identities.’
      • ‘For decades, the national identity represented a progressive Utopia in her eyes.’
      • ‘Identities explores the relationship of racial, ethnic and national identities and power hierarchies within national and global arenas.’
      • ‘After nine decades, our national identity has changed dramatically.’
      • ‘All over the world, youth are participating in movements against the same systems of power that threaten to manipulate the economic and social identities of whole nations.’
      • ‘Multiculturalism is a political ideology that has completely altered the demographic identity of this nation.’
      • ‘One could argue, in fact, that ethnic identity itself is a way of talking about access to resources.’
      • ‘Understanding the myriad ways that Americans interacted with the world provides new insights into the construction of American literary and national identities.’
      • ‘There are ‘diasporas’ of all national and ethnic identities in most countries which have had substantial levels of immigration.’
      • ‘So, when you get involved into the European community your sense of your own national identity is enhanced in fact.’
      • ‘Many people - most, in fact - shape their identities as partners of lovers who become spouses and fellow-parents.’
      • ‘Each stage in this progression apparently moves him from the status of hero to that of outcast, but in fact both identities are implicated in him from the very start.’
      • ‘The modern state mediates national, sexual and ethnic identities in the public sphere.’
      individuality, self, selfhood, ego, personality, character, originality, distinctiveness, distinction, singularity, peculiarity, uniqueness, differentness
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    2. 1.2[as modifier](of an object) serving to establish who the holder, owner, or wearer is by bearing their name and often other details such as a signature or photograph.
      ‘an identity card’
      • ‘The code also requires contractors to be in uniform or be easily identifiable and carry identity cards with their photograph.’
      • ‘All candidates were expected to have identity cards bearing their photographs to prevent other people sitting examinations for them.’
      • ‘It is introducing identity cards, restricting immigration, seeking to curb the right of habeas corpus and extending antisocial behaviour orders.’
      • ‘They have not been provided with identity cards because they are regarded as illegitimate residents by the local administration.’
      • ‘Young people across South Lakeland and Furness are being encouraged by police to carry photograph identity cards to prove their age.’
      • ‘Parents and children do not fully understand the privacy and civil rights issues that are being eroded by this back door introduction of teenage identity cards.’
      • ‘College managers are insisting that students and staff wear photographic identity cards on colour coded ribbons visible at all times to security guards.’
      • ‘Bookings should be in name via the identity card and/or passport, to short circuit the ticket scalps.’
      • ‘Tickets issued at student fares are only valid for travel in conjunction with a valid student identity card bearing a photograph of the holder.’
      • ‘As they collect passes and identity cards required to enter the counting booth, he pulls up those who are late and pulls the legs of his younger followers.’
      • ‘The man disappeared after a prospective client from Kasama Drug Store challenged him to reveal his real name and identity card.’
      • ‘The law states that photographs on Italian identity cards must show a person's features clearly.’
      • ‘The administration is now drafting a population bill to curb urbanization and to expel poor migrants who do not have Jakarta identity cards.’
      • ‘When the worried monks called the police, they found that the two fraudsters had presented fake identity cards, fake addresses, and a fake account number.’
      • ‘Mexican officials are giving Mexican government IDs to illegal aliens in this country to be used as identity cards.’
      • ‘Thereafter, only those with identity cards should be allowed to stay.’
      • ‘Registered health workers always carry identity badges with their photographs displayed.’
      • ‘Authoritarian measures like the introduction of costly and unworkable identity cards show that Labour have tipped the balance between freedom and control too far the wrong way.’
      • ‘Before giving the go-ahead for identity cards, we should be offered a properly-reasoned case and an opportunity of airing all points of view.’
      • ‘Several of the suspects are Jerusalem residents who carry Israeli identity cards that allow them free movement, security officials said.’
  • 2A close similarity or affinity.

    ‘an identity between the company's own interests and those of the local community’
    • ‘In the present case the Inspector had based his earlier conclusion on the close identity between the Company and the Second Respondent.’
    • ‘Westmorland claims a close identity with aviation pioneering, the jubilee of which is being celebrated this week.’
    • ‘It discusses the identities and similarities between OXYB and the yeast Osh proteins.’
    • ‘There is a close identity between Celtic FC and Roman Catholicism, and also between Rangers FC and Scottish cultural Protestantism.’
    identicalness, sameness, selfsameness, oneness, congruity, congruence, indistinguishability, interchangeability
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  • 3Mathematics
    A transformation that leaves an object unchanged.

    • ‘Any object, indeed any molecule, will contain at least one of these symmetry elements - the operation C 1 known as the identity operation - a rotation of 360°, the equivalent of doing nothing.’
    • ‘The table gives the result of all possible pairwise combinations of the four operations I, R, P and Y (which stand for the identity operation and for 180-degree rotations around the roll, pitch and yaw axes).’
    1. 3.1An element of a set which, if combined with another element by a specified binary operation, leaves that element unchanged.
      • ‘When you use an operation to combine an identity with another number, that number stays the same.’
      • ‘Group theory studies not a single structure, but a type of structure, the pattern common to collections of objects with a binary operation, an identity element thereon, and inverses for each element.’
      • ‘First, among the operations there must be an identity element - an operation that leaves the system unchanged.’
      • ‘For example, the collection of integers under addition is a group (the identity element is 0), and groups occur throughout mathematics from geometry to combinatorics to cryptography.’
      • ‘The Lie algebra as a vector space can be identified with the tangent space at the identity element of the group.’
  • 4Mathematics
    The equality of two expressions for all values of the quantities expressed by letters, or an equation expressing this, e.g. (x + 1)2 = x2 + 2x + 1.

    • ‘Identity and equality are two fundamental binary relations which relate expressions of a given type.’


Late 16th century (in the sense ‘quality of being identical’): from late Latin identitas, from Latin idem same.