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Looking at what's reported in the NOAD, one of the meanings of implicate is the following:

convey (a meaning or intention) indirectly through what one says, rather than stating it explicitly; imply: by saying that coffee would keep her awake, Mary implicated that she didn't want any.

Is implicate used as a synonym of imply, or are the two words used in different contexts?
If they are used in different contexts, could you provide examples that use imply and implicate?

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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Using implicate to mean imply is a recondite usage. Usually implicate carries a heavy negative connotation. From thefreedictionary.com:

im·pli·cate (mpl-kt) tr.v. im·pli·cat·ed, im·pli·cat·ing, im·pli·cates 1. To involve or connect intimately or incriminatingly: evidence that implicates others in the plot. 2. To have as a consequence or necessary circumstance; imply or entail: His evasiveness implicated complicity.

When you imply something, it usually means you convey meaning without literally stating it.

Mary shrugged, implying that she had no evidence for her assertion.

Or it denotes a relationship between two things:

Your reluctance to speak implies that you can't come up with a good argument.

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Why do people say,"What are you trying to imply?!" –  Thursagen May 27 '11 at 11:29
    
@Third Idiot: Beats me. –  Robusto May 27 '11 at 11:36
    
My sister and I usually use "imply" in a way that is negative, but we never use implicate. –  Thursagen May 27 '11 at 11:38
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@Idiot I hear implicate used almost exclusively in connection with crime. –  z7sg Ѫ May 27 '11 at 11:42
    
@Robusto, Words that came from L. implicatus are: imply, implicit, implication, implicate and employ; I think that a lot of differentiation can be assumed from the times presented in etymonline.com/index.php?search=implicare&searchmode=none –  Unreason May 27 '11 at 15:09
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Both mean almost exactly the same thing, they are synonymous. However, there are slight differences.

Both of them can be used to 'suggest', but there are differences as to ways of usage. Only persons can "implicate", and situations, states, circumstances, are "implied".

"Implicate" has a meaning of 'to show to be involved', whereas "imply" has no such connotation.

Although they are pretty closely related, "implicate" generally has the meaning of "to involve", and "imply" has the meaning of "to indicate, suggest."

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'exactly the same' and 'there slight differences' is a contradiction in terms. –  Grant Thomas May 27 '11 at 11:25
    
I wrote "almost", and to show what was not the same, I wrote "slight differences". –  Thursagen May 27 '11 at 11:27
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