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 World Health Organization defines pandemic as the worldwide spread of a new disease. Helen Branswell, STAT, "Understanding pandemics: What they mean, don’t mean, and what comes next with the coronavirus," 12 Feb. 2020 But the Challenger defines its own unique measure of success and then nails it, knocks it down, and does a lurid burnout on top of it. Daniel Pund, Car and Driver, "Mustang Shelby GT500 vs. Camaro ZL1 1LE vs. Challenger Hellcat Redeye," 12 Feb. 2020 Technically, the order defines the classical style more broadly than columns. Clay Chandler, Fortune, "Trump’s architectural vision for Washington, D.C. looks like Ancient Rome," 11 Feb. 2020 The board defines curriculum standards for the public schools, and its debates sometimes track national culture war issues along party lines. Alia Malik,, "Multiple candidates vying in State Board of Education district representing San Antonio," 9 Feb. 2020 Saturday, June 28 Julian Lage, Emmet Cohen — 1 p.m., Ohio Theatre: Impeccable technique defines the transformative performances of guitarist Julian Lage, who tangles the roots of jazz, folk, classical and country music. Chuck Yarborough, cleveland, "2020 Tri-C JazzFest diverse lineup to feature homage to Charlie Parker, music by John Mayall and the Punch Brothers," 8 Feb. 2020 Meanwhile, Kenya’s progressive, hard-won 2010 constitution defines the nation not on the basis of tribe, but on the basis of values like equality, democracy, and social justice. Wired Opinion, Wired, "Digital IDs Make Systemic Bias Worse," 5 Feb. 2020 Its purpose defines its size, its shape, and its overall dimensions. Martin Dumont, The New York Review of Books, "Waterlines: On Writing and Sailing," 5 Feb. 2020 Gass defined treatment as usual more broadly than DeMille—including everything from outpatient care to detoxification programs, residential treatment, and hospital stays. Popular Science, "There isn’t much science supporting wilderness therapy for teens," 30 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for define

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for define

Last Updated

26 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Define.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for define


How to pronounce define (audio)

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


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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for define

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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