de·​sign | \di-ˈzīn \

Definition of design 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan : devise, contrive design a system for tracking inventory

2a : to conceive and plan out in the mind he designed the perfect crime

b : to have as a purpose : intend she designed to excel in her studies

c : to devise for a specific function or end a book designed primarily as a college textbook a suitcase designed to hold a laptop computer

3 archaic : to indicate with a distinctive mark, sign, or name

4a : to make a drawing, pattern, or sketch of … a curious woman whose dresses always looked as if they had been designed in a rage …— Oscar Wilde

b : to draw the plans for design a building designing a new bike

intransitive verb

1 : to conceive or execute a plan

2 : to draw, lay out, or prepare a design was trained to design for homes and offices



Definition of design (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : a particular purpose or intention held in view by an individual or group He has ambitious designs for his son.

b : deliberate purposive planning more by accident than design

2 : a mental project or scheme in which means to an end are laid down was never part of my design

3a : a deliberate undercover project or scheme : plot a declaration of a design upon his life— John Locke

b designs plural : aggressive or evil intent used with on or against he has designs on the money

4 : a preliminary sketch or outline showing the main features of something to be executed the design for the new stadium

5a : an underlying scheme that governs functioning, developing, or unfolding : pattern, motif the general design of the epic

b : a plan or protocol for carrying out or accomplishing something (such as a scientific experiment) also : the process of preparing this

6 : the arrangement of elements or details in a product or work of art … his sense of structure, both in the general design of Paradise Lost and Samson, and in his syntax …— T. S. Eliot

7 : a decorative pattern a floral design

8 : the creative art of executing aesthetic or functional designs studied design in college

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Other Words from design


designedly \ -​ˈzī-​nəd-​lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for design


intention, intent, purpose, design, aim, end, object, objective, goal mean what one intends to accomplish or attain. intention implies little more than what one has in mind to do or bring about. announced his intention to marry intent suggests clearer formulation or greater deliberateness. the clear intent of the statute purpose suggests a more settled determination. being successful was her purpose in life design implies a more carefully calculated plan. the order of events came by accident, not design aim adds to these implications of effort directed toward attaining or accomplishing. her aim was to raise film to an art form end stresses the intended effect of action often in distinction or contrast to the action or means as such. willing to use any means to achieve his end object may equal end but more often applies to a more individually determined wish or need. his constant object was the achievement of pleasure objective implies something tangible and immediately attainable. their objective is to seize the oil fields goal suggests something attained only by prolonged effort and hardship. worked years to reach her goals

plan, design, plot, scheme, project mean a method devised for making or doing something or achieving an end. plan always implies mental formulation and sometimes graphic representation. plans for a house design often suggests a particular pattern and some degree of achieved order or harmony. a design for a new dress plot implies a laying out in clearly distinguished sections with attention to their relations and proportions. the plot of the play scheme stresses calculation of the end in view and may apply to a plan motivated by craftiness and self-interest. a scheme to defraud the government project often stresses imaginative scope and vision. a project to develop the waterfront

Examples of design in a Sentence


A team of engineers designed the new engine. Who designed the book's cover? He designed the chair to adjust automatically. They thought they could design the perfect crime. design a strategy for battle


There are problems with the design of the airplane's landing gear. I like the design of the textbook. I love the sculpture's design. The machine had a flawed design. the design and development of new products Correcting mistakes is part of the design process. a number of design concepts
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Apple and Qualcomm have been in a heated dispute for the last two years, and now Apple is taking another small jab at the company by opening up jobs that seem to be designed to grab employees from the chipmaking giant. Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge, "Apple targets Qualcomm employees with new job listings," 15 Nov. 2018 These are designed to filter out really small air particles and allergens. Colleen Stinchcombe, SELF, "13 Ways to Triumph Over Fall Allergies," 13 Nov. 2018 Leave it to Chiara Ferragni to design some of the most wishlist-worthy sneakers of the holiday season. Tess Garcia, Teen Vogue, "Converse and Chiara Ferragni Collaborate on Glittery Sneaker Collection," 11 Nov. 2018 Introducing the Reusable Lunar Lander In this presentation, NASA’s engineering team declared its intention to design a reusable crew cabin for the lander that comes with its own propulsion system. Anatoly Zak, Popular Mechanics, "NASA’s Return to the Moon Could Include a Reusable Lunar Lander," 23 Oct. 2018 To launch rockets into space from 35,000 feet, Mr. Allen paid for a team of engineers in Mojave to design and build an enormous airplane with the longest wingspan ever seen. Rachel Lerman, The Seattle Times, "Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and Seahawks owner, dies at 65," 16 Oct. 2018 Rather, the dress was rumored to be designed by Ralph & Russo, a rumor fueled in early May by the Royal School of Needlework which posted a tweet highlighting the fact that Ralph & Russo's haute couture atelier team was visiting. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Everything That Princess Eugenie's Wedding Dress Had in Common with Meghan Markle's," 12 Oct. 2018 Think old school Range Rover, or a fancier Jeep Grand Cherokee, which happened to be designed by Rivian VP of Vehicle Design Jeff Hammoud. Gary Gastelu, Fox News, "Rivian Automotive looking to battle electric cars with battery-powered trucks," 21 Sep. 2018 Regan also helped design and build the Presbyterian Church in Coventry in the late 1980s. Anne M. Hamilton,, "He Brought His Skill For Teaching, Knack For Colonial Buildings To Coventry," 15 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

At this scale, huge geological patterns look like seashells, and mountain ranges resemble the branches of cherry trees, revealing the economical self-similarity of Nature’s designs. Steven Poole, WSJ, "What to Give: Science Books," 15 Nov. 2018 The company will also not be involved in any of the study designs. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Amazon’s HQ2 stunt could come back to haunt it," 14 Nov. 2018 Multiple countries use them within their own royal families, but Queen Elizabeth II's has its own particular design and meaning. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "The First Photos of Kate Middleton Wearing an Special Honor From the Queen Are Breathtaking," 24 Oct. 2018 To start: Indian Canyon Road is packed with antique shops and galleries, and Sunnylands (a 200-acre historic estate) and the iconic neighborhood of Twin Palms are paragons of mid-century design. Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Cities in the U.S.: 2018 Readers' Choice Awards," 9 Oct. 2018 Three of the designs come in kids' sizes, too (from $30). Taysha Murtaugh, Country Living, "Ugly Halloween Sweaters Were Made For People Who Are Too Lazy to Dress Up," 10 Sep. 2018 Evidently, this feeling was all part of the design. Tiffany Dodson, SELF, "I Tried Living in Khloé Kardashian's Active Line for a Week," 15 Aug. 2018 The restaurant will seat about 55 people inside and 45 people outside, surrounded by modern design and decor. Jessica Suriano, azcentral, "The Larry restaurant, catering business will bring eclectic menu to downtown Phoenix," 13 July 2018 The new location incorporates an earth-tone color palette with an industrial design and modern feel in line with the greater rebranding and remodeling initiative launched in May 2016. Henry J. Morgan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Menomonee Falls Cousins Subs celebrates July 11 reopening after redesign," 12 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'design.' 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 design


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 3


1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for design


Middle English, to outline, indicate, mean, from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French designer to designate, from Medieval Latin designare, from Latin, to mark out, from de- + signare to mark — more at sign


see design entry 1

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Statistics for design

Last Updated

19 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for design

The first known use of design was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for design



English Language Learners Definition of design

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to plan and make decisions about (something that is being built or created) : to create the plans, drawings, etc., that show how (something) will be made

: to plan and make (something) for a specific use or purpose

: to think of (something, such as a plan) : to plan (something) in your mind



English Language Learners Definition of design (Entry 2 of 2)

: the way something has been made : the way the parts of something (such as a building, machine, book, etc.) are formed and arranged for a particular use, effect, etc.

: the process of planning how something will look, happen, be made, etc. : the process of designing something

: a drawing of something that is being planned or created


de·​sign | \di-ˈzīn \
designed; designing

Kids Definition of design

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to think up and plan out in the mind Our engineers have designed a new engine.

2 : to set apart for or have as a special purpose : intend The Web site is designed for fun.

3 : to make a pattern or sketch of She designs clothes.



Kids Definition of design (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an arrangement of parts in a structure or a work of art The design of the house suits a large family.

2 : the art or process of planning and creating something His job is Web page design.

3 : a sketch, model, or plan of something made or to be made Architects studied the design for the building.

4 : a decorative pattern

6 : a planned intention As if by design, they both stopped at the same spot …— Jerry Spinelli, Maniac Magee

7 : a secret purpose : plot I know you have designs on my money.


de·​sign | \di-ˈzīn \

Medical Definition of design 

: a plan or protocol for carrying out or accomplishing something (especially a scientific experiment) also : the process of preparing this

Other Words from design

design transitive verb

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Comments on design

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by force of circumstances

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