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

At eye-level, Maxwell’s shadow was slightly escapist in nature, the warming tone diffusing toward the brow, while the model’s painted matte lip was further defined by a visible delineation of lip liner. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Stella Maxwell Puts a Twist on the Makeup Hue of the Moment," 12 July 2019 Why some of us feel defined by our anxiety Take my patient Jake*, for example. SELF, "What If You Don’t Feel Like Yourself Without Your Anxiety?," 12 July 2019 On and off the field, Lorenzen refused to be defined by his shortcomings. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Jared Lorenzen was not Kentucky's best quarterback, but he was its most memorable," 10 July 2019 Senator Harris has laid out a powerful and bold vision for this country that is inclusive of everyone’s lived experience and grounded in the belief that success should not be defined by race, gender, socioeconomic status or zip code. Essence, "Here’s Why I’m Endorsing Kamala Harris For President," 3 July 2019 More than anything, most LeftTubers seemed to consider LeftTube to be a consumer demographic, defined by users rather than creators. Shaan Amin, The New Republic, "Can the Left Win YouTube?," 2 July 2019 Luke has demonstrated several indicators of an emotionally abusive relationship, as defined by the Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "How 'The Bachelorette' Rewards Toxic Masculinity," 1 July 2019 Yet a survey by the WMO in 2015 found that around one-third of countries still lacked criteria for defining and reacting to heatwaves. M.d., The Economist, "What is a heatwave?," 28 June 2019 On average the candidates have mentioned it just eight times in tweets this year, and have tweeted about trade wars and tariffs—defining issues for Trump—even less. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Project Veritas’ YouTube sting was deeply misleading — and successful," 27 June 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

16 Jul 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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