de·fine | \ di-ˈfīn \
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 \-ˈfīn-mənt \ noun
definer \-ˈfī-nər \ noun

Synonyms for define


lay down, prescribe, specify

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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

If anything, the dots are deployed to help accentuate and, indeed, define the abstract zones and the representational figures that are set against them. Mike Giuliano, Howard County Times, "Connecting the dots in Goldberg's variations," 13 July 2018 The analysis compared the health of people who had the least amount of access to green space — defined as open, undeveloped land, parks and street greenery — with those who had the most. Richard A. Marini, San Antonio Express-News, "Massive new study review confirms nature nurtures your health," 12 July 2018 The federal law defines a service animal as dogs that are trained to perform tasks, such as calming someone down during an anxiety attack, for people with disabilities. Crystal Hill, miamiherald, "Shopper with service dog says Walmart employee accused her of faking a disability," 12 July 2018 Robbins' fusion of formal ballet with more aggressive, jazzier street movement has largely defined every major production since, including the most recent Broadway revival in 2009. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "Tony Winner Ivo van Hove to Direct 'West Side Story' on Broadway (Exclusive)," 12 July 2018 Schools should also clearly define unacceptable student behavior, including threatening or engaging in violence, bullying and harassing others. NBC News, "It's not 'snitching': Secret Service says students can help prevent gun violence," 11 July 2018 His blue-collar roots have defined his candidacy, starting with his launch video. Daniel Bice, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bice: Ironworker Randy Bryce being paid undisclosed amount by Democratic firm," 11 July 2018 No law defined the rights of people who were no longer slaves. Martha S. Jones, Time, "How the 14th Amendment's Promise of Birthright Citizenship Redefined America," 9 July 2018 Amy Adams' Camille Preaker and Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, respectively—their darkness defines them. Samantha Leach, Glamour, "Sharp Objects Is the Feminist True Detective We've Been Waiting For," 8 July 2018

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

10 Sep 2018

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



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 \
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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Comments on define

What made you want to look up define? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


occurring twice a year or every two years

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