Definition of inflect in English:



[with object]
  • 1Grammar
    Change the form of (a word) to express a particular grammatical function or attribute, typically tense, mood, person, number, and gender.

    ‘Arabic verbs are inflected for person, number, and gender’
    • ‘A mantra is a kind of prayer that contains the name of God that is inflected grammatically in the dative case.’
    • ‘Pronouns such as my are not adjectives either; they are pronouns, genitively inflected, functioning as determiners.’
    • ‘By contrast, the final verb is not marked for switch-reference but is fully inflected for such categories, and this inflection is relevant to the whole clause chain.’
    • ‘Bantu languages were praised for their terminations at the beginning, so that the words are inflected, conjugated, or defined by means of a system of prefixes.’
    • ‘There are two present-tense verbs here, both inflected for plural agreement.’
    1. 1.1no object (of a word or language) undergo inflection.
      ‘all of these words inflect irregularly’
      • ‘Languages can be classified into one of three types: isolating or noninflective, agglutinating, and inflecting.’
      • ‘We listed a few words that we claimed were just exceptions to the claim that monosyllabic adjectives inflect, and we included wrong on that list.’
      • ‘For example, they do not inflect for past tense, and with a third-person singular subject they do not take the characteristic s inflection.’
      • ‘There's an abbreviation of the name, a checkbox for genders, another one for classes, and information about how the lexical type inflects.’
      • ‘Chinese is monosyllabic, Japanese is polysyllabic; Japanese verbs, adjectives and adverbs inflect, whereas they don't in Chinese; and Japanese has a system of postpositions that Chinese doesn't.’
  • 2Vary the intonation or pitch of (the voice), especially to express mood or feeling.

    ‘his slight voice, inflected with a token touch of grit’
    • ‘This time, she spoke in English inflected with a German accent so that Loren could hear what she had to say.’
    • ‘She kept her voice clear, the words precisely pronounced and inflected.’
    • ‘The postcingulum has a similar, but reversed pattern: it leaves the hypocone posteriorly, swings labially, is inflected sharply anterolabially, and ends at the posterior spur lingual to the intermediate row of cusps.’
    • ‘If Eddie's voice (as both voice-over and direct speech) is clear and inflected with humour, not so the official speech of the forces assembled against him.’
    • ‘Stevens has attained better command of his limited vocal range, inflecting richly within it instead of pushing against it: ‘We had more fun when we were poor.’’
    • ‘One thing that on-line communication doesn't give is a sense of how people's voices inflect what they say with particular meanings that you don't always pick up when someone is writing.’
    • ‘He is scornful of modern gurus, or gu-RUS as he mockingly inflects the word, and tells tour pros, ‘If they can't beat you, they've got nothing to teach you.’’
    • ‘Newspapers and magazines, once independent witnesses, are now mere conduits for the single, approved and flawlessly inflected voice booming from the apex of the pyramid of power.’
    • ‘We don't hear that often nowadays, nor a native Italian who inflects the words of a Verdi opera so beautifully and naturally.’
    • ‘The voice on the tape slightly inflects the word ‘or’ so many children answered ‘brownie’ instead of the correct answer, ‘yes.’’
    • ‘‘Odd seeing Mr. Van Doren here,’ Ronald says, his deep voice inflected with curiosity.’
    • ‘Are the words not only correct, but also pronounced accurately and clearly, and are they inflected appropriately and expressively?’
    • ‘I did not know whether it was her abnormal dress, her desire for death, or her oddly inflected voice but this girl was something new.’
    1. 2.1 Vary the pitch of (a musical note).
      • ‘Taking a whirlwind tempo, as he did, is one thing; but failing to inflect the smaller motivic units that comprise it is quite another.’
      • ‘If Davis was unable to communicate his enthusiasm for this composer to his vocal forces, he did manage to draw warmly inflected playing from the orchestra.’
      • ‘But even performers who ‘adhere to the score’ greatly inflect their readings by personal, pianistic, musical and emotional modifications.’
      • ‘As the patterns of notes or letters are inflected, moments of fulfillment or stability are perceived.’
      • ‘Pletnev seems eager to convince us that these are very important works, and so everything is inflected, almost to the point of fussiness.’
      adjust, change the tone of, vary
      View synonyms
    2. 2.2 Influence or colour (music or writing) in tone or style.
      ‘her analysis may have been inflected by the upsurge of feminism’
      in combination ‘blues-inflected bar rock’
      • ‘The word professional is almost always negatively inflected for Woolf, whether it denotes the academic credentials that were historically denied to women or an excessive emphasis on public perception and financial success.’
      • ‘But I believe the historical conjunction that gave rise to accountability continues to inflect and propel it.’
      • ‘Concepts like martyrdom, which might seem to be shared with Christianity, are quite differently inflected, because based on a much more ready acceptance of the way of the world than on world rejection.’
      • ‘Thus the discourse of American studies had been inflected from the beginning by the doctrinal ‘doubleness’ of the adversary culture.’
      • ‘That is, the approach I have described as Curtin's might be inflected by American practices, such as those at Iowa.’
      • ‘In some cases they could just as easily be in black and white for all the viewer may recall, and they are almost without exception inflected with memorable, sometimes exaggerated effects.’
      • ‘For it is through words that our understanding of things get even more complicated, inflected, and obscured as the processes of representation and seeing run their course.’
      • ‘There are brief mentions of how Washington's punch resulted in him receiving death threats, many of them inflected with racial epithets.’
      • ‘Now at the beginning of the twenty first century, healthcare and architecture are again inflecting each other in interesting ways.’
      • ‘There are indications, however, that a new generation is starting to find its own voice, tempered and inflected by more exotic influences and general intellectual curiosity.’
      • ‘So begins the Iliad, and then we get, for twenty-five performance hours, a remarkably precise calibration of the different speeds at which time can flow when inflected through the experience of fury.’
      • ‘Much of this materiel is, then, inflected by the digital.’
      • ‘This is American pop culture - its film stars and sports figures - inflected through Pfeiffer's subtle and not-so-subtle messages, in American terms, about racism, heroism, irony and loss.’
      • ‘This is not to insist that a commitment to continuity of care, as any aspect of parenting, is merely ‘natural’ rather than inflected by the cultural values and material conditions.’
      • ‘Leonard's story is more obviously politically inflected than Virginia's, but in their different ways both reveal how that which is repulsive to the socialized symbolic self is already a fundamental component of its identity.’
      • ‘Memory inflects his every gesture, and silence in his work assumes fullness and palpability.’
      • ‘Clearly inflected by the more profound nuances of Japanese tradition, Pawson's spirit of sensuous rationalism meets such pragmatic challenges head on.’
      • ‘The reception of Brooks's work through 1968 clearly demonstrates the extent to which a publisher's imprint inflects both the way a work is valued and the way it is understood.’
      • ‘But in fact, the spaces are defined by walls inflected in both plan and section, so although the spaces seem right for Aasen's books and desk and chairs, they emphasize their nature, as a conventional orthogonal layout could not.’
      • ‘Work that is less inflected than Marasela's may elicit the same doubt.’
  • 3technical Bend or deflect (something), especially inwards.

    ‘particles readily inflect, deflect and jostle one another’
    • ‘DiDonna inflects the field between the two columns with an ink hatching of fine strokes that infiltrates the column to the right.’
    • ‘Indeed, he continued, the answer resided in Newtonian physics: when Hopkinson held the textile up to the street lamp, the material inflected the light rays in a manner that made the threads appear thicker and the dark bars immobile.’
    • ‘At the west end, off Europa Boulevard (the main thoroughfare of the east side of the Expo site), the glass screen is inflected.’
    • ‘The angular process of the dentary is inflected medially in almost all marsupials.’
    • ‘Each milieu affects the space, bends it, inflects it, shapes it.’
    • ‘Working by consensus decision making, the group generated a design that splays in both plan and section, inflecting the structure outward while focusing inward to the place of ceremony.’
    • ‘Ojile's work has long had a musing, meditative quality; these layered depths and inflected surfaces extend a particularly compelling invitation to ponder both the known and the unknowable.’
    • ‘As the moisture decreases, the evaporation curve inflects at a point referred to herein as the peat evaporation inflection point.’
    • ‘The compression of the grids, together with their shifting scales, created urgent perspectival illusions that were immediately cancelled by richly inflected surfaces and complex relationships of unexpected colors.’
    • ‘It's difficult to decide, too, whether the resulting structures are acutely inflected paintings or polychrome sculptures.’
    • ‘The profiled dog establishes the plane of the canvas, opening up space for the figures, who are otherwise turned into eloquent shapes by the edge of the canvas and the minimally inflected expanse of the Place.’
    bend, turn, loop, wind, meander, undulate, snake, spiral, twist, coil, curl
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (in inflect (sense 3)): from Latin inflectere, from in- ‘into’ + flectere ‘to bend’.