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 Most state orders define essential industries and essential positions within those industries, Coale says. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, "What is essential and non-essential during a pandemic?," 21 Mar. 2020 But after being assigned to work at home like millions of other employees worldwide during this time of COVID-19, what defines the normal work day is in flux. Richard Ruelas, azcentral, "No, it turns out that caller is not really interested in lowering your credit card rates," 21 Mar. 2020 But late on Tuesday, the Alameda County Sheriff's office fired a shot across Tesla's bow: Tesla: @Tesla is not an essential business as defined in the Alameda County Health Order. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Alameda County Sheriff pressures Tesla to shut down Fremont factory," 18 Mar. 2020 Fear and blame appear to be fast becoming Americans’ defining emotions around COVID-19. Belinda Kong, The Conversation, "How Chinese people came together when separated by quarantine, creating hope, humor and art," 18 Mar. 2020 But the statute does not define what that means in terms of how big of a price increase is too much, Potchen said. Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, "AG Dana Nessel warns Menards over alleged price gouging," 17 Mar. 2020 This is the shape of the mathematical function defining the axion field. Quanta Magazine, "Axions Would Solve Another Major Problem in Physics," 17 Mar. 2020 One of the defining differences between deodorants and antiperspirants is that deodorant attempts to mask odor while antiperspirant promises to eliminate it. NBC News, "Best natural deodorants in 2020, according to dermatologists," 14 Mar. 2020 JPMorgan just changed its forecast to predict two quarters of negative growth, which is typically defined as a recession. Heather Long, Washington Post, "The U.S. may already be in a recession, and it could linger even after the covid-19 crisis is over," 13 Mar. 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

25 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Define.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Apr. 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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