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)

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Other Words from define

definement \ di-​ˈfīn-​mənt How to pronounce definement (audio) \ noun
definer \ di-​ˈfī-​nər How to pronounce definer (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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The whole court agreed that the Armed Career Criminal Act doesn’t define burglary specifically because that would make each variation in state criminal laws seem to exempt a defendant from the federal act if the definitions didn’t perfectly match. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "The latest US Supreme Court rulings are blowing up pundits’ predictions," 15 June 2019 Here's how our dads define dad TV, including a colorful essay by a real life dad. Elena Nicolaou, refinery29.com, "Are Our Dads Watching "Dad Shows?"," 15 June 2019 Vogueworld Kylie Jenner Makes the Case for the Toe Ring What will define the look of summer 2019? Vogue, "Kylie Jenner Makes the Case for the Toe Ring," 14 June 2019 Smithson never specified exactly how such an institution of knowledge would look or be defined. Michael Waters, Smithsonian, "Mr. Smithson’s Family Goes to Washington," 14 June 2019 Building community through music is what defines us. Beth Wood, San Diego Union-Tribune, "At-risk teens will show their creativity at Art of Élan concert," 13 June 2019 Just as the Dewey Decimal System has a single subcategory for Shakespeare so library browsers can be sure to find Hamlet near Romeo and Juliet, rigid tagging systems define a single list of non-overlapping tags and require that everyone use them. Gretchen Mcculloch, WIRED, "Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online," 11 June 2019 Certainly winning a championship at those key positions — quarterback, starting pitcher, goaltender — a lot of times is what defines you down the road. Curtis Zupke, latimes.com, "Blues center Ryan O'Reilly has ultimate support group for Game 7 of Stanley Cup Final," 11 June 2019 Smaller stations, lower launch costs, and in-orbit construction are what define this new generation of space exploration. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "A 10-Year Odyssey: What Space Stations Will Look Like in 2030," 10 June 2019

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

18 Jun 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 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.

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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

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