des·​ig·​nate | \ ˈde-zig-ˌnāt How to pronounce designate (audio) , -nət \

Definition of designate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: chosen but not yet installed (see install sense 2a) ambassador designate


des·​ig·​nate | \ ˈde-zig-ˌnāt How to pronounce designate (audio) \
designated; designating

Definition of designate (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to indicate and set apart for a specific purpose, office, or duty designate a group to prepare a plan
2a : to point out the location of a marker designating the battle
b : to distinguish as to class (see class entry 1 sense 3) the area we designate as that of spiritual values— J. B. Conant
c : specify, stipulate to be sent by a designated shipper
3 : denote associate names with the people they designate
4 : to call by a distinctive title, term, or expression a particle designated the neutron

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Other Words from designate


designative \ ˈde-​zig-​ˌnā-​tiv How to pronounce designate (audio) \ adjective
designator \ ˈde-​zig-​ˌnā-​tər How to pronounce designate (audio) \ noun
designatory \ ˈde-​zig-​nə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce designate (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for designate

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of designate in a Sentence

Verb The wooden stakes designate the edge of the building site. the designated time for the meeting
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland is expected to be grilled on the matter during his Senate confirmation hearings. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Biden won't have role in potential criminal case against Trump over riot, White House claims," 16 Feb. 2021 Kindergarteners, special education students, and children in first, second, third and 12th grades are tentatively scheduled to be back in classrooms at certain schools March 3, said Elba Aponte, Puerto Rico's education secretary-designate. DÁnica Coto, Star Tribune, "Puerto Rico prepares to reopen schools 1 year after pandemic," 8 Feb. 2021 Homeland security officials balked at helping designate antifa as a terrorist organization, and the effort failed. New York Times, "How Trump’s Focus on Antifa Distracted Attention From the Far-Right Threat," 30 Jan. 2021 His picks include longtime aides, such as Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken and national security adviser appointee Jake Sullivan. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Biden bristles at Obama third term comparisons," 25 Nov. 2020 More detail has emerged on Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen’s stance on whether to unravel the Trump era tax cuts. Fortune, "Bitcoin bombs lower, touching the dreaded $30,000 range," 22 Jan. 2021 Yellen's hearing has been scheduled on the same day as one for Biden's secretary of defense-designate Lloyd Austin before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Senate targets Tuesday as Treasury secretary confirmation hearing date for Janet Yellen," 12 Jan. 2021 Xavier Becerra is Biden's Health and Human Services Secretary-designate, Anthony Fauci agreed to be his chief COVID-19 medical adviser, and Jeff Zients will be his virus czar in his capacity as a counselor to the president. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Biden overhauls Operation Warp Speed and names new chief scientific adviser," 15 Jan. 2021 Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra can do his part by publicly endorsing the existing PREP Act declarations. Samuel Tarry, STAT, "Keep Covid-19 vaccination decisions out of the courtroom," 13 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Italy’s government recently decided to reserve Pfizer and Moderna shots for the elderly and designate the AstraZeneca vaccine for younger, at-risk workers, sparking protest from the country’s main teachers’ union. Matthew Perrone, Anchorage Daily News, "Third COVID-19 vaccine in US raises question of which shot is best," 26 Feb. 2021 During the hearing, Lee offered one of his familiar expositions on the pitfalls of the 1906 Antiquities Act, which has allowed presidents to designate national monuments, like the two in Utah. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Haaland vows to visit Utah before any moves are made on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase," 25 Feb. 2021 The federal rule, passed in 2015, does not designate testing limits that utilities must use. Sarah Bowman, The Indianapolis Star, "Other states are making utilities dig up toxic coal ash. Indiana is letting it sit there.," 11 Feb. 2021 More than 50 nations designate an official in the top ranks of government whose portfolio includes nurturing artistic endeavors. Washington Post, "The culture is ailing. It’s time for a Dr. Fauci for the arts.," 2 Dec. 2020 This could be a move to designate the Saudis' enemies in Yemen -- the Houthis -- a terrorist organization, boxing in Biden's leverage over Saudi and further complicating his dealings with Iran. Nic Robertson, CNN, "World braced for more bombshells from furious Donald Trump after election defeat," 19 Nov. 2020 Gordon Ernst, Georgetown University's tennis coach, was accused of getting $2.7 million in bribes to designate at least 12 applicants as recruits. Julia Musto, Fox News, "California financier agrees to plead guilty in college admissions scandal," 7 Feb. 2021 Nurse and aide shortages were so severe at Pointe Coupee Healthcare last year that employees weren’t even able to designate staff to work in a wing of the building being used to isolate residents with COVID-19, according to inspectors’ reports. Gordon Russell,, "As coronavirus left Louisiana nursing homes short-staffed, some residents were left without care," 6 Feb. 2021 Companies refusing to designate an official representative are subject to fines, advertising bans and bandwidth reductions that would make their networks too slow to use. Zeynep Bilginsoy, Star Tribune, "Facebook bows to Turkish demand to name local representative," 18 Jan. 2021

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


1629, in the meaning defined above


1596, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for designate

Adjective and Verb

Latin designatus, past participle of designare — see design entry 1

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Time Traveler for designate

Time Traveler

The first known use of designate was in 1596

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Statistics for designate

Last Updated

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Designate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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More Definitions for designate



English Language Learners Definition of designate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

formal : chosen for a particular job but not officially doing that job yet



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

: to officially choose (someone or something) to do or be something : to officially give (someone or something) a particular role or purpose
: to call (something or someone) by a particular name or title
: to be used as a name for (something or someone)


des·​ig·​nate | \ ˈde-zig-ˌnāt How to pronounce designate (audio) \
designated; designating

Kids Definition of designate

1 : to appoint or choose for a special purpose They designated a leader.
2 : to call by a name or title Let's designate this angle of the triangle a.
3 : to mark or point out : indicate These lines designate the boundaries.

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