verb de·fine \ di-ˈfīn \
|Updated on: 16 Jul 2018

Definition of define

defined; defining
1 a : 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 : to create on a computer
  • define a window
  • define a procedure
2 a : 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 make
  • Denison Univ. Bull.
  • the moment that defined the campaign
: to make a definition (see definition 1a)


play \-ˈfīn-mənt\ noun


play \-ˈfī-nər\ noun

Examples of define in a Sentence

  1. a term that is difficult to define

  2. The government study seeks to define urban poverty.

  3. Her book aims to define acceptable social behavior.

  4. She believes that success should be defined in terms of health and happiness.

  5. That fence defines the far edge of the property.

Recent Examples of define from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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 1finish

DEFINE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of define for English Language Learners

  • : 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 Defined for Kids


verb de·fine \ di-ˈfīn \

Definition of define for Students

defined; defining
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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to beat or defeat soundly

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