[ dih-fahyn ]
See synonyms for: definedefineddefinesdefining on

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.

  1. to fix or lay down clearly and definitely; specify distinctly: to define one's responsibilities.

  2. to determine or fix the boundaries or extent of: to define property with stakes.

  3. 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.

Origin of define

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”; see origin at de-, finish

Other words for define

Other words from define

  • 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), mis·de·fined, mis·de·fin·ing.
  • 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), pre·de·fined, pre·de·fin·ing.
  • re·de·fine, verb (used with object), re·de·fined, re·de·fin·ing.
  • self-de·fined, adjective
  • sem·i·de·fined, adjective
  • un·de·fin·a·ble, adjective

Words Nearby define Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use define in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for define


/ (dɪˈfaɪn) /

  1. to state precisely the meaning of (words, terms, etc)

  2. to describe the nature, properties, or essential qualities of

  1. to determine the boundary or extent of

  2. (often passive) to delineate the form or outline of: the shape of the tree was clearly defined by the light behind it

  3. to fix with precision; specify

Origin of define

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

Derived forms of define

  • definable, adjective
  • definability, noun
  • definably, adverb
  • definer, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012