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 Plank, who has worked in logistics and resource management, believes that electric unmanned aircraft will define the future of delivery. Jacob Muñoz, Smithsonian Magazine, "Drones Are Delivering Covid-19 Vaccines to Underserved Communities," 7 Apr. 2021 With just hours to go before the first pitch of the 2021 season, Steve Cohen finally made the move that will define the early part of his tenure as New York Mets owner. Jared Diamond, WSJ, "Steve Cohen’s Mets Make Their Move With 10-Year, $341 Million Deal for Francisco Lindor," 1 Apr. 2021 As the National Labor Relations Board reviews ballots from’s union election in Alabama, the U.S. labor movement is entering a pivotal moment that will likely define the future of worker organization for decades to come. Nicole Goodkind, Fortune, "Here’s how the PRO Act would impact freelance and gig workers," 31 Mar. 2021 The new documentation will define additional best practices for Americans who have received one or two vaccine doses. Chris Smith, BGR, "Dr. Fauci says CDC will soon change coronavirus guidelines again for vaccinated people," 12 Mar. 2021 The post-pandemic workplace isn't reverting to the traditional 9 to 5 set-up, flexibility and the hybrid model will define the future. Edward Segal, Forbes, "Most Workers Want Employers To Enforce Covid Workplace Rules, Survey Says," 10 Mar. 2021 Prescott’s accomplishments, or the lack of them, will define him from this point forward. David Moore, Dallas News, "How this new contract alters perceptions, shifts the narrative surrounding Dak Prescott," 9 Mar. 2021 Taking Isaiah Washington over Champlin Park's McKinley Wright IV was a major miscalculation that will define Pitino's tenure. Star Tribune, "Basketball coaching change is next logical step for Gophers Athletic Director Mark Coyle," 6 Mar. 2021 All those interests weighed in on Haaland’s nomination, but no single issue dominated the hearings—or will define the near future of her tenure—as much as energy. Andrew Mckean, Outdoor Life, "6 Key Issues We Hope the New Interior Secretary Tackles—and How to Pull It Off in This Partisan Era," 5 Mar. 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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Statistics for define

Last Updated

11 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Define.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 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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Comments on define

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