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to make use of as relevant, suitable, or pertinent:
to apply a theory to a problem.
to put to use, especially for a particular purpose:
to apply pressure to open a door.
to bring into action; use; employ:
He applied the brakes and skidded to a stop.
to use a label or other designation:
Don’t apply any such term to me.
to use for or assign to a specific purpose:
He applied a portion of his salary each week to savings.
to put into effect:
They applied the rules to new members only.
to devote or employ diligently or with close attention:
to apply one’s mind to a problem; to apply oneself to a task.
to place in contact with; lay or spread on:
to apply paint to a wall; to apply a bandage to a wound.
to bring into physical contact with or close proximity to:
to apply a match to gunpowder.
to credit to, as an account:
to apply $10 to his account at the store.
to be pertinent, suitable, or relevant:
The argument applies to the case. The theory doesn’t apply.
to make an or request; ask:
to apply for a job; to apply for a raise.
to lay or spread on:
The plastic coating is easy to apply on any surface.
to be placed or remain in contact:
This paint doesn’t apply very easily.
Contemporary Examples

If it applies, it means the homeowner would be out of pocket for most costs if the home is damaged.
MH370: How Do Insurers Put a Price on Life? Daniel Gross March 25, 2014

“At first it was so bizarre,” she mumbles into a hand mirror, her mouth taut as she applies lipstick in the back of a taxi.
Is This Dildo-Licking, Dominatrix-Loving Vogue Blogger the New Face of Feminism? Lizzie Crocker May 21, 2014

“Force of nature” is a frequently misused term, but it applies to Geldof.
The BBC’s Overdue Live Aid Apology Martyn Gregory November 4, 2010

This applies to everything from Google Docs to Gmail: Putting our data out there really means putting it “out there.”
The Great Google Coverup? Douglas Rushkoff January 12, 2010

With no skills per se and no college education, Joe applies to be a secretary at a firm whose boss just happens to be Jerome.
‘Nymphomaniac,’ Lars von Trier’s Icy Orgy of Sex and Self-Loathing, Bows At Sundance Marlow Stern January 22, 2014

Historical Examples

This applies, not only to morals, but to the minor morals—the manners.
Mrs. Hale’s Receipts for the Million Sarah Josepha Hale

The same principle (by the way) applies to the difficult problem of wives.
Alarms and Discursions G. K. Chesterton

Judge Dowling listens to them all, and if a remedy is needed, applies the proper one without delay.
Lights and Shadows of New York Life James D. McCabe

This applies to individuals just as truly as it does to mankind.
Albert Durer T. Sturge Moore

This definition, which applies strictly to England, applies not at all to Ireland.
Practical Politics; or, the Liberalism of To-day Alfred Farthing Robbins

verb -plies, -plying, -plied
(transitive) to put to practical use; utilize; employ
(intransitive) to be relevant, useful, or appropriate
(transitive) to cause to come into contact with; put onto
(intransitive) often foll by for. to put in an application or request
(transitive) often foll by to. to devote (oneself, one’s efforts) with diligence
(transitive) to bring into operation or use: the police only applied the law to aliens
(transitive) to refer (a word, epithet, etc) to a person or thing

late 14c., “to put (one’s faculties, etc.) to some task or career,” late 14c., from Old French aploiier “apply, use, attach” (12c., Modern French appliquer), from Latin applicare “attach to, join, connect;” figuratively, “devote (oneself) to, give attention,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + plicare “fold” (see ply (v.1)). The etymological sense is “bring things in contact with one another.” Of lotions, from early 15c. Meaning “seek a job by submitting an application for one” is from 1851. A by-form applicate is recorded from 1530s. Related: Applied; applying.


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