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 My colleague James Pindell explains why the next 100 days will define President Joe Biden’s presidency., "Rhode Island’s least (and most) vaccinated communities," 30 Apr. 2021 Historians have said Trump's final year in office will define his legacy -- a year marked by his failure to contain a raging pandemic and his incitement of a mob of rioters at the US Capitol. Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, "Trump's close advisers urge him to make PSA to persuade his followers to get the Covid-19 vaccine," 26 Apr. 2021 In the near term, there are five critical areas that will define the future of Christianity in the Middle East. Andrew Doran, National Review, "The Future of Christians in the Middle East," 25 Apr. 2021 For Porsche’s next trick, the automaker must transmit that magic heritage to the electric vehicles that will define its future. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, "2021 Porsche 911 turbo delivers legendary performance, latest tech," 15 Apr. 2021 The director-general of the Department of Disease Control, Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, said the figures after the Songkran holiday will define the direction of the Thailand's latest surge. Patrick Quinn And Busaba Sivasomboon, Star Tribune, "Thailand sees record new infections ahead of major festival," 12 Apr. 2021 Nobody was exactly surprised—and the reasons why could define the future of human space exploration. Adam Rogers, Wired, "Sneaky New Bacteria on the ISS Could Build a Future on Mars," 5 Apr. 2021 She is known for using a wheelchair, but doesn't let that define her. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Meet the Cast and Characters of Netflix's "Moxie"," 3 Mar. 2021 John Carroll coach Tyrell Howard-Franklin said the Patriots did well to not let their first-quarter performance define them. Pat Stoetzer,, "Gerstell girls basketball goes cold after strong start, falls to John Carroll," 24 Feb. 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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Last Updated

17 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Define.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 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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