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

An outgrowth of a turbulent era, that year would come to define a generation and, ultimately, the nation. Eric Ginsburg, Teen Vogue, "How April 1968 Changed the United States Forever," 19 Apr. 2019 In her seminal essay on the subject, Susan Sontag attempts to define the sensibility known as camp with examples—instances in popular and unpopular culture that manufactured or exude the camp aesthetic. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "An Ode to the Campiest Film You’ve Probably Never Seen," 19 Apr. 2019 Fredrick Brennan, the founder of the website 8chan, believes that there is no way to stop the toxic speech that has come to define the site without more broadly reshaping the internet. WSJ, "Corrections & Amplifications," 21 Mar. 2019 But this result shows there’s more than one way to define our closest neighbor. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "What's the Closest Planet to the Earth? Surprise, It's Mercury," 15 Mar. 2019 And now, according to People, via a royal source, Prince Harry is working hard to define his new role within the royal family. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "How Prince Harry's Relationship with Prince William Is Changing Amid the Kensington Palace Split," 22 Dec. 2018 Most of the other letters are also used to define additional features. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Wi-Fi branding to get a lot simpler with upcoming “Wi-Fi 6”," 3 Oct. 2018 No one who works full-time hours should have a financial situation that is hanging together by a thread or a work life defined by uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. Mariana Viera, Teen Vogue, "Domestic Workers Like My Mom Deserve Protection and Security," 26 Mar. 2019 The script is showing its age at a time when millennials—defined by the Pew Research Center as people born between 1981 and 1996—are driving growth at other luxury companies. Eric Sylvers, WSJ, "Tod’s Loafers Have Won Over Royals and Hollywood—But Not Many Millennials," 16 Feb. 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

23 Apr 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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