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 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web That touchdown helped define Fields’ two seasons with the Buckeyes, and showed Pace the quarterback’s essence. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Can Justin Fields be the NFL franchise quarterback the Chicago Bears and Ohio State both need?," 30 Apr. 2021 Sean asks when the boy pleads for his life, and that mixture of resignation and fury is clearly going to define Cole’s performance for a while. Roxana Hadadi, Vulture, "Gangs of London Premiere Recap: The Old Ultraviolence," 4 Apr. 2021 But it's also been haunted by shootings that have helped define the nation's decades-long struggle with mass violence., "Haunted by mass violence, Colorado confronts painful history," 24 Mar. 2021 And although her challenges and triumphs have been the catalyst for her motivational blog and popular social media posts, her disorder does not define her, or her platform. Amanda Klarsfeld,, "Disability advocate uses Instagram to motivate and educate others," 18 Mar. 2021 One meal, snack or food does not define your nutrition status or self worth. Stefani Sassos, Ms, Rdn, Cso, Good Housekeeping, "As a Registered Dietitian, I Can Tell You That There Absolutely Are No "Bad" Foods," 13 Mar. 2021 The statement did not define when sufficient supply would be met or describe a broader timetable but said that Covax may be used to distribute these doses. Washington Post, "Europe and U.S. should donate up to 5 percent of vaccine doses to developing nations, Macron says," 18 Feb. 2021 One movie cannot define an entire ethnicity, but what the To All The Boys trilogy has done is to expand the spectrum of Asian identities on screen, bringing us one step further away from the otherness by which we are often depicted. Olivia Truffaut-wong,, "Thank You, To All The Boys: A Bittersweet Goodbye To Lara Jean Covey," 18 Feb. 2021 Those talks spawned a nine-member group of Japanese American community leaders, Rowland and the main developer in early 2019, which then took two years to define its goals and secure the design strategy. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Designs for a revitalized Japantown in Salt Lake City stir the souls of Asian community," 19 Apr. 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.

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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

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Define.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for define



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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