define

verb
de·​fine | \ di-ˈfīn How to pronounce define (audio) \
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)

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from define

definement \ di-​ˈfīn-​mənt How to pronounce define (audio) \ noun
definer \ di-​ˈfī-​nər How to pronounce define (audio) \ 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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web There are sights that help define Tokyo – the immaculate streets, the breathtaking bay and the 7-Elevens on nearly every street. USA Today, 24 July 2021 The jury, Leitess said, had the power to define Ramos's true legacy. BostonGlobe.com, 15 July 2021 But by funding the institutions that help define ideas about what constitutes a reasonable climate debate, the company may be exerting more influence over public discourse than the public realizes. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 13 July 2021 But both men enter this weekend's diplomatic gathering under pressure to define their respective roles in the world and amongst other global powers. Maegan Vazquez, CNN, 10 June 2021 The worst things that have ever happened to us, don’t define us. Molly Longman, refinery29.com, 9 June 2021 Wie West doesn’t define herself only by her scores. Ron Kroichick, San Francisco Chronicle, 31 May 2021 The lines on maps that politicians draw in an attempt to define or resolve the conflict are defied by the fluidity and harsh imperatives of economics. New York Times, 28 May 2021 These collections represent the freedom to define what wellness means to you. Kate Talbot, Forbes, 19 May 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About define

Time Traveler for define

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near define

definable

define

definiendum

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for define

Last Updated

28 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Define.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/define. Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce define (audio) \
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.

More from Merriam-Webster on define

Nglish: Translation of define for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of define for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!