I looked up the meanings of the insinuate and imply. Insinuate, as shown on the site vocabulary.com, means suggest in an indirect or covert way, and imply means to express or state indirectly.

I was just wondering, are they interchangeable?

The following are some sentences where insinuate is used:

  1. But they share common stylistic traits, most notably a tendency to insinuate more than they state outright.

  2. I politely commented that he was right, a lot of people are offended by that term, insinuating that I was among them.

  3. "This gives Schmidt the opportunity to insinuate his desires" into the state’s technology strategy for schools, he said.

In these sentences, can we use imply, instead of insinuate?

  • 1
    There's also intimate (OED: To make known or communicate by any means however indirect; hence, to signify, indicate; to imply, to suggest, to hint at). Which to my ear at least is a closer synonym to imply, because it doesn't have the inherently negative associations of insinuate. – FumbleFingers Nov 18 '17 at 16:13
  • Yes, there's intimate but how is that relevant here? The point is to show that insinuate is negative. – Lambie Nov 18 '17 at 16:26
  • 1
    I appreciate that intimate @FumbleFingers pointed out, and we learnt it. I think that kind of "additional information" is always good for our learners. – dan Nov 18 '17 at 20:52
  • @Lambie: I don't get what you mean by "the point is to show that insinuate is negative". If I'd thought that was the purpose of the question I'd have closevoted, since almost every dictionary definition will include that fact (and it's hardly On Topic to ask ELL to vote on whether those definitions are correct or not). But there are syntactic distinctions between the two words, not least the fact that “insinuate” can be a synonym of “infiltrate” (as in OP's example #3, where infiltrate could be used, but not imply). – FumbleFingers Nov 20 '17 at 15:07
  • @FumbleFingers I guess you mean semantic distinctions. And I pointed out the main difference between the two. You have added another term, which is not the same thing. But add away, be my guest. Usually, if a person asks about A and B, first one explains that instead of explaining A and C. – Lambie Nov 20 '17 at 15:16

The main difference in meaning between imply and insinuate is this taken from Merriam-Webster on the term insinuate:

"The word insinuate, on the other hand, usually includes a sense that the idea being conveyed is unpleasant, or that it is being passed along in a sly or underhanded way ("She insinuated that I cheated")".

But another difference is this: A person who hears someone says something can have the impression the speaker is insinuating or implying this or that. That's fine. But the term imply or implication may also be used in formal logic and philosophy whereas the term insinuate itself is not a formal term.

A logical implication or material implication is formal term in logic. It is written like this: A implies B, where the word implies is an arrow that cannot be transcribed here. But you can view it here: logical implication

As for "insinuating desires" into technology, that is a metaphorical use of the term and suggests slying introducing them into technology, as opposed to just doing it outright or in a clearly visible manner.

  • The implies sign ⇒ can be coded in Answers with ⇒. – StoneyB Nov 18 '17 at 17:31

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