define

verb
de·​fine | \ di-ˈfīn \
defined; defining

Definition of define 

transitive verb

1a : to determine or identify the essential qualities or meaning of whatever defines us as human
b : to discover and set forth the meaning of (something, such as a word) how the dictionary defines "grotesque"
c computing : to create with established rules or parameters define a window define a procedure
2a : to fix or mark the limits of : demarcate rigidly defined property lines
b : to make distinct, clear, or detailed especially in outline the issues aren't too well defined eyes defined by mascara
3 : characterize, distinguish you define yourself by the choices you makeDenison Univ. Bull. the moment that defined the campaign

intransitive verb

: to make a definition (see definition sense 1a)

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Other Words from define

definement \ -​ˈfīn-​mənt \ noun
definer \ -​ˈfī-​nər \ noun

Examples of define in a Sentence

a term that is difficult to define The government study seeks to define urban poverty. Her book aims to define acceptable social behavior. She believes that success should be defined in terms of health and happiness. That fence defines the far edge of the property.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Federal law doesn’t define an emergency, and for much of American history such declarations largely were ad hoc. Jess Bravin, WSJ, "Can Trump Build a Wall Under a National Emergency?," 8 Jan. 2019 The events of 2019, inside airfield hangars and the walls of Washington, will define how quickly supersonic airliners can make their return to the skies. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "Supersonic Airliners Are About to Take Off. Again.," 7 Jan. 2019 Jenner has made a career for herself defining what makes a true influencer: constantly public and perceived as always accessible on social media. Julia Alexander, The Verge, "Kylie Jenner returned as online queen in 2018 after disappearing for nearly a year," 21 Dec. 2018 By going public first, Lyft is defining its own category on the stock market rather than ceding that turf to Uber, which would otherwise do so given its brand awareness and size. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "Why Lyft had to beat Uber to an IPO filing," 6 Dec. 2018 One of the challenges of 5G, though, is simply defining it. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Qualcomm announces Snapdragon 855 mobile chip as it readies for 5G," 4 Dec. 2018 Scientists typically define mammals as animals that have hair, produce live young, and produce milk. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "There Is a Spider That Feeds Its Young Delicious Milk, Because Nature Is Scary," 30 Nov. 2018 The differences in brightness define distinct sets of rings. Joe Rao, Space.com, "The Moon Has a Close Encounter with Saturn on Tuesday Night," 23 July 2018 Wiley says the Instagram community that follows Pattie has widened his own perspective on what defines inclusivity in the outdoors. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "Meet Pattie Gonia, the Backpacking Drag Queen Promoting Inclusivity in the Outdoors," 11 Dec. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'define.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of define

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for define

Middle English diffinen, defynen, borrowed from Anglo-French definer, diffiner, borrowed (with conjugation change) from Medieval Latin dēfīnīre, diffīnīre (dif- by association with dif-, assimilated form of dis- dis-), going back to Latin dēfīnīre "to mark the limits of, determine, give an exact description of," from dē- de- + fīnīre "to mark out the boundaries of, limit" — more at finish entry 1

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Statistics for define

Last Updated

15 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for define

The first known use of define was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for define

define

verb

English Language Learners Definition of define

: to explain the meaning of (a word, phrase, etc.)

: to show or describe (someone or something) clearly and completely

: to show the shape, outline, or edge of (something) very clearly

define

verb
de·​fine | \ di-ˈfīn \
defined; defining

Kids Definition of define

1 : to explain the meaning of define a word
2 : to make clear especially in outline Your responsibilities are defined in the handout.

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More from Merriam-Webster on define

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with define

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for define

Spanish Central: Translation of define

Nglish: Translation of define for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of define for Arabic Speakers

Comments on define

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