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See more synonyms for define on Thesaurus.com
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.
  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.
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verb (used without object), de·fined, de·fin·ing.
  1. to set forth the meaning of a word, phrase, etc.; construct a definition.
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Origin of define

1325–75; Middle English def(f)inen < Anglo-French, Old French definer to put an end to < Latin dēfīnīre to limit, define, equivalent to dē- de- + fīnīre; see finish
Related formsde·fin·a·ble, adjectivede·fin·a·bil·i·ty, nounde·fin·a·bly, adverbde·fine·ment, nounde·fin·er, nounmis·de·fine, verb (used with object), mis·de·fined, mis·de·fin·ing.non·de·fin·a·bil·i·ty, nounnon·de·fin·a·ble, adjectivenon·de·fin·a·bly, adverbnon·de·fined, adjectivenon·de·fin·er, nounpre·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, adjectivesem·i·de·fined, adjectiveun·de·fin·a·ble, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for undefinable

Historical Examples

  • I then had a strange, undefinable sensation of universal chaos.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • It all comes, I believe, from trying to define the undefinable.

  • But how tell an undefinable uneasiness, variable as the clouds, unstable as the winds?

    Madame Bovary

    Gustave Flaubert

  • It hung about him with the undefinable feel and smell of death.

  • The presence of the figure inspired me with an undefinable awe!


    William Harrison Ainsworth

British Dictionary definitions for undefinable


verb (tr)
  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 ofthe shape of the tree was clearly defined by the light behind it
  5. to fix with precision; specify
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Derived Formsdefinable, adjectivedefinability, noundefinably, adverbdefiner, noun

Word Origin

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

Word Origin and History for undefinable



late 14c., "to specify; to end," from Old French defenir "to end, terminate, determine," and directly from Latin definire "to limit, determine, explain," from de- "completely" (see de-) + finire "to bound, limit," from finis "boundary, end" (see finish (n.)). Related: Defined; defining.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper