View synonyms for define


[ dih-fahyn ]

verb (used with object)

, de·fined, de·fin·ing.
  1. to state or set forth the meaning of (a word, phrase, etc.):

    They disagreed on how to define “liberal.”

  2. to explain or identify the nature or essential qualities of; describe:

    to define judicial functions.

  3. to fix or lay down clearly and definitely; specify distinctly:

    to define one's responsibilities.

    Synonyms: enumerate, detail, describe, name, state

  4. to determine or fix the boundaries or extent of:

    to define property with stakes.

  5. to make clear the outline or form of:

    The roof was boldly defined against the sky.

verb (used without object)

, de·fined, de·fin·ing.
  1. to set forth the meaning of a word, phrase, etc.; construct a definition.


/ dɪˈfaɪn /


  1. to state precisely the meaning of (words, terms, etc)
  2. to describe the nature, properties, or essential qualities of
  3. to determine the boundary or extent of
  4. often passive to delineate the form or outline of

    the shape of the tree was clearly defined by the light behind it

  5. to fix with precision; specify

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Derived Forms

  • deˈfinably, adverb
  • deˈfinable, adjective
  • deˈfiner, noun
  • deˌfinaˈbility, noun

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Other Words From

  • de·fina·ble adjective
  • de·fina·bili·ty noun
  • de·fina·bly adverb
  • de·finement noun
  • de·finer noun
  • misde·fine verb (used with object) misdefined misdefining
  • nonde·fina·bili·ty noun
  • nonde·fina·ble adjective
  • nonde·fina·bly adverb
  • nonde·fined adjective
  • nonde·finer noun
  • prede·fine verb (used with object) predefined predefining
  • rede·fine verb (used with object) redefined redefining
  • self-de·fined adjective
  • semi·de·fined adjective
  • unde·fina·ble adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of define1

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English def(f)inen, from Anglo-French, Old French definer “to put an end to,” from Latin dēfīnīre ”to limit, define,“ equivalent to dē- “from, away from, out of” + fīnīre “to end”; de-, finish

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Word History and Origins

Origin of define1

C14: from Old French definer to determine, from Latin dēfīnīre to set bounds to, from fīnīre to finish

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Example Sentences

The appointment has yet to be announced, and the scope of the job hasn’t been fully defined yet because it’s a new position.

From Vox

Long-tail keyphrases are defined as those that are different from general keywords.

Most large stone circles in western England and Wales have clearly defined entrances, but it’s not clear that the proposed entryway at Waun Mawn served that purpose.

Ambiguous loss is not only difficult to define, but it’s also difficult to live with.

Scientists haven’t yet identified an “immune correlate of protection,” which is usually defined to be the level of antibodies in the blood at which they can feel confident that a person is going to be protected from infection.

It was something ineffable and harder to define: freedom of speech.

This was later repurposed in Europe as an explanation for racial superiority, and the term “Aryan” came to define a white race.

To define this show of support by major corporations for LGBT equality as a seachange would be no overstatement.

And I would like for this generation to define its own movement.

Modern conservatives rightly (as it were) define themselves against the culture at large; hipsters seek to do so as well.

In general, any personal property that may be sold; many of the statutes define it.

The magnitude, and variety, and demands of the objects embraced by it, define the times necessary for engaging in it.

I suppose the more experience a man has had of life the more he hesitates to define what love really is.

Cruelty is another cause, almost as general, though more difficult to define.

The terms of the covenant must, therefore, define the designed extent of the objects of his death.