de·​lin·​eate di-ˈli-nē-ˌāt How to pronounce delineate (audio)
delineated; delineating

transitive verb

: to describe, portray, or set forth with accuracy or in detail
delineate a character in the story
delineate the steps to be taken by the government
: to indicate or represent by drawn or painted lines
: to mark the outline of
lights delineating the narrow streets
delineator noun

Examples of delineate in a Sentence

He plants his skates millimeters outside the blue-tinted 44-square-foot arena that delineates the crease and refuses to budge … Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated, 21 May 2007
Screenwriter Christopher Hampton introduces a large gallery of characters, subtly delineating the unspoken class biases that will keep Robbie, for all his confidence, charm and Cambridge education, an outsider. David Ansen, Newsweek, 10 Dec. 2007
So Madrid finally ordered Onís to cut the best deal he could. The resulting Transcontinental (or Adams-Onís) Treaty of 1819 ceded Florida to the United States and delineated the boundary between American and Spanish territory all the way to the Pacific Ocean … Walter A. McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State, 1997
Privacy plays a unique role in American law. Although considered a core value by most citizens, it is not explicitly delineated as a protected right by the U.S. Constitution. Edward A. Cavazos et al., Cyberspace and the Law, 1994
The report clearly delineates the steps that must be taken. The characters in the story were carefully delineated. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Transitional justice processes must begin by delineating the timeframe and territorial scope for accountability efforts. Patrick Vinck, Foreign Affairs, 15 Nov. 2023 To that end, the CFO should take the lead in delineating the roles and responsibilities of this committee, individual executives, financial and public reporting preparers, and other contributors to the disclosure process. Jim Deloach, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 At a nondescript Irish pub on Avenue A, Marnie Stern is delineating her sonic priorities. Jenn Pelly, Pitchfork, 9 Nov. 2023 Ives quickly and amusingly delineates the six with specific and almost universally obnoxious traits. Jesse Green, New York Times, 22 Oct. 2023 There is no physical barrier inside the JSA, and a US official previously said that after bolting over the demarcation line delineating the border, King tried to enter a North Korean facility – but the door was locked. Kevin Liptak, CNN, 27 Sep. 2023 English boxwood is particularly popular because it can be tightly clipped and used to delineate spaces, screen unwanted views, create privacy, sculpt forms and more. Tovah Martin, Washington Post, 17 Oct. 2023 Rebel groups, often delineated along ethnic lines, have sought autonomy from a state that was stitched together by the British Empire, unifying distinct ancient kingdoms. WIRED, 29 Sep. 2023 On Wednesday, the City Council voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Kellie Hinze opposed, to remove the plastic bollards and yellow paint that delineate the traffic circle at the intersection of Andrew Avenue, Eolus Avenue and Hillcrest Drive. Barbara Henry, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'delineate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Latin dēlīneātus, past participle of dēlīneāre "to trace the outline of," from dē- de- + līneāre "to make straight, mark with lines," derivative of līnea "string, cord, line entry 1"

First Known Use

1559, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Time Traveler
The first known use of delineate was in 1559

Dictionary Entries Near delineate

Cite this Entry

“Delineate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​lin·​eate di-ˈlin-ē-ˌāt How to pronounce delineate (audio)
delineated; delineating
: to indicate by lines : sketch
: to describe in sharp or vivid detail
delineate the characters in a story
delineator noun

More from Merriam-Webster on delineate

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