Definition of define in English:

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Pronunciation: /dɪˈfʌɪn/


[with object]
1State or describe exactly the nature, scope, or meaning of: the contract will seek to define the client’s obligations
More example sentences
  • For auctioneers a client has been defined as the party contracted to pay the fee so beware of large sums of cash, however rare, in the sale of a property.
  • An admission, or spell, is defined as a continuous period of time spent as a patient within a trust, and may include more than one episode.
  • Counter-party data is defined as the data that identifies and describes trading partners.
explain, expound, interpret, elucidate, explicate, describe, clarify;
give the meaning of, state precisely, spell out, put into words, express in words
1.1Give the meaning of (a word or phrase), especially in a dictionary: the dictionary defines it as ‘a type of pasture’
More example sentences
  • Founded by Cardinal Richelieu in 1635, its purpose was to produce a dictionary that would define all significant words of the French language.
  • Webster's online dictionary defines the word ‘crusade’ as a corrective enterprise, which is undertaken with zeal and enthusiasm.
  • This is not really helpful unless you also know how this same dictionary defines the word, religious.
1.2Make up or establish the character or essence of: for some, the football club defines their identity
More example sentences
  • These challenges, though unpleasant at times, ultimately produce within us the character and determination that defines the very essence of the Coast Guard.
  • Costumes help define character and establish setting.
  • From the beginning Pakeha New Zealanders have struggled to establish and define a national identity for themselves.
2Mark out the boundary or limits of: (as adjective defined) clearly defined boundaries
More example sentences
  • Linda says Brittany, while not quite testing limits, is defining boundaries.
  • Conceptually, the new building can be thought of as a folded strip running through and around the site, feeling limits and defining boundaries.
  • Words and phrases used to describe low-level sexual activity project a rhythm and closure, that is, they define the boundaries or scale pertaining to the limits of rules of the relation.
determine, establish, fix, specify, designate, decide, stipulate, settle, set out, mark out, mark off;
demarcate, bound, delimit, delineate, circumscribe, set the boundaries/limits of
2.1Make clear the outline of; delineate: she defined her eyes by applying eyeshadow to her eyelids
More example sentences
  • Before constructing software, it is essential to gather the main requirements, to define a clear architecture, and to give a broad outline of the reused parts.
  • It is worked in eight coloured wools on a plain linen ground, its masses of colour, in couched and laid work, defined by stem or outline stitch.
  • In what follows, I use this painting to define the broad outlines of the Renaissance, touching on some of the key ideas and concepts that are central to an understanding of what is meant when this contentious term is used.
outline, delineate, silhouette;
trace, pencil



Example sentences
  • Individuals are the definers of art, both the artist and the viewer.
  • But Blessing suggests that presidents who rank most highly do so because they ‘have become key definers of American political thought.’
  • Charles Baudelaire, definer of the modern for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was himself careful to recognize that ‘every old master has had his own modernity.’


Late Middle English (also in the sense 'bring to an end'): from Old French definer, from a variant of Latin definire, from de- (expressing completion) + finire 'finish' (from finis 'end').

  • finance from Late Middle English:

    The word finance is from Old French, from finer ‘make an end; settle a debt’, from fin ‘end’. The original sense was ‘payment of a debt, compensation, or ransom’, which later developed into ‘taxation, revenue’. Current senses date from the 18th century. Fine (Middle English) in the sense money you pay, comes from the same source and was originally a sum paid to settle a lawsuit, while the other sense of fine, ‘high quality’ leading to ‘thin’, also Middle English, goes back to the earlier sense ‘thoroughly finished’, and lies behind refine (late 16th century), define (Late Middle English), finery (late 17th century), and finesse (Late Middle English). Finish (Middle English) itself goes back to the same root.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: de¦fine

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