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

City Manager Rob Hauck said there wouldn’t be any guesswork involved in where developers would build—there would be plats, surveys, and the lines for each zone would be very defined. Paul Wedding, Houston Chronicle, "Tomball City Council approves comprehensive plan," 16 Sep. 2019 In dissent, Judge John Walker said the courts have never clearly defined the Constitution's emoluments clauses. Pete Williams, NBC News, "Appeals court revives lawsuit against Trump over his businesses," 13 Sep. 2019 Although some lawmakers argue the filibuster is what makes the Senate unique, a supermajority threshold is not what defines the legislative chamber. Daniel Wirls, The Conversation, "The Senate filibuster explained – and why it should be allowed to die," 13 Sep. 2019 Just last week, Najarian had suggested defining protocols on how to properly invite council members to local events. Lila Seidman, Glendale News-Press, "Glendale councilman says he was booted from HOA event because he’s Armenian," 12 Sep. 2019 The 12-10 loss to Cal last season was the ‘defining debacle’ for Washington offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan. Jon Wilner, The Mercury News, "Hotline newsletter: Heat Index debuts, UW’s revenge, UCLA’s empty seats, Ryan Leaf’s journey (and so much more)," 6 Sep. 2019 Lawmakers routinely built huge, loosely defined savings targets into the annual budget, requiring the administration to achieve hundreds of millions of dollars in savings once the fiscal year was underway. Keith M. Phaneuf,, "State employee OT is up, but salary costs are lower than a decade ago," 5 Sep. 2019 Depth is an issue, there’s no defined starter at left guard, and Ragnow is dealing with an ankle injury that could linger into the season. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "Scouting the Detroit Lions' offense: Here's what we're expecting in 2019," 4 Sep. 2019 The rest of my hair looked shiny, defined, and healthy. Jihan Forbes, Allure, "We Tried Pattern by Tracee Ellis Ross, a Hair-Care Line for 3B to 4C Curls," 3 Sep. 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

8 Oct 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



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

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

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).


to wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

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