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design Line breaks: de¦sign
Pronunciation: /dɪˈzʌɪn/

Definition of design in English:


1A plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is made: he has just unveiled his design for the new museum
More example sentences
  • I asked Lara whether crews had discovered problems during construction - poor building plans or designs or materials.
  • Not long time back building designs & drawings was a pain in the neck by the hand using the conventional pen and paper on a drafting table.
  • The location of the Quarter will depend on the developer's plans and designs and scale of buildings.
plan, blueprint, drawing, scale drawing, sketch, outline, map, plot, diagram, delineation, draft, depiction, representation, artist's impression, scheme, model, prototype, proposal
1.1 [mass noun] The art or action of conceiving of and producing a plan or drawing of something before it is made: good design can help the reader understand complicated information
More example sentences
  • The result is that component design is rarely conceived of in such a way that lends itself to automated manufacturing.
  • The set and light design, which was conceived of even before the script was written, was being touted as the main focus of the piece.
  • Some plans are difficult to administer, but this is often a result of complex design chosen by the plan sponsor.
1.2 [mass noun] The arrangement of the features of an artefact, as produced from following a plan or drawing: inside, the design reverts to turn-of-the-century luxe
More example sentences
  • The design of the coin should be clear and precise with unevenness or blurring a sign of counterfeiting.
  • The policy and process for deciding on coin designs for our coins is based on the Mint's Policy on Coin Designs and Issue.
  • Little is known about Greek influences beyond what can be gathered from coins, although, like much of Roman art and politics, Roman coin designs were heavily influenced by Greek styles.
2A decorative pattern: pottery with a lovely blue and white design
More example sentences
  • Some crystal or fine glassware has a gilt design or edge on the rim of glass or as a decorative design or a patterned glass dish.
  • It featured exuberant decorative patterns, designs in the brickwork and wooden attachments.
  • It was used by my grandmother and her mother before her as a means of chalking decorative patterns and designs upon the slate hearthstone and doorstep.
3 [mass noun] Purpose or planning that exists behind an action, fact, or object: the appearance of design in the universe
More example sentences
  • Neither its design nor its purpose has changed in that time.
  • The design behind these incidents was undoubtedly to give it a communal colour.
  • A second argument draws from the appearance of design in the universe the conclusion that there must be a Designer.


[with object] Back to top  
1Decide upon the look and functioning of (a building, garment, or other object), by making a detailed drawing of it: a number of architectural students were designing a factory (as adjective, with submodifier designed) specially designed buildings
More example sentences
  • So the building was deliberately designed to function both as a station and as a fort.
  • A competition will be launched to decide who will design the new buildings.
  • Of course buildings must be designed with consideration of how they will fit in.
plan, draw plans of, draw, sketch, outline, map out, plot, block out, delineate, draft, depict
make, produce, develop, fashion, fabricate, forge, hatch, coin
informal dream up
1.1Do or plan (something) with a specific purpose in mind: [with object and infinitive]: the tax changes were designed to stimulate economic growth
More example sentences
  • The new website is designed to help students plan how they get to school or college.
  • This equips the researchers to design studies in vitro that will allow them to improve animal welfare and reduce variability.
  • Many brands and types of products are specifically designed to protect and restore your leather goods.
devise, contrive, purpose, plan;
tailor, fashion, make fitting, adjust, adapt, fit, gear, equip;
mean, destine, orient


Late Middle English (as a verb in the sense 'to designate'): from Latin designare 'to designate', reinforced by French désigner. The noun is via French from Italian.

  • seal from Old English:

    Rather than signing their name, people formerly stamped a personal seal in wax on a completed letter or other document. The expressions put the seal on, ‘to put the finishing touch to something’, and set your seal to, ‘to mark something with your own distinctive character’, both derive from this. To seal something off reflects the use of seals to check that something has not been opened or disturbed. In these and related uses, seal goes back to Latin sigillum ‘small picture’, from signum ‘a sign’, the source of design (late 16th century), designate (mid 17th century), ensign (Late Middle English), insignia (mid 17th century), sign (Middle English), signal (Late Middle English), scarlet, and numerous other English words. This seal dates from Middle English. The name of the animal seal derives from Old English seolh, the source also of the selkie or silkie (mid 16th century), the mysterious seal woman of folklore.


by design

As a result of a plan; intentionally: I became a presenter by default rather than by design
More example sentences
  • If they did end up saving too little, they'd have done so by design rather than default.
  • Well, it may seem obvious that they both are made by design or intent.
  • Lots of people are starting to suspect that's by design rather than by accident.

have designs on

Aim to obtain (something), typically in an underhand way: he suspected her of having designs on the family fortune
More example sentences
  • He emerged as sole leader of the opposition in 1263, but his position had weakened, for many magnates suspected him of having designs on the throne.
  • We still have designs on taking that third spot and qualifying for Europe.
  • The only way to avoid deaths on such a grand scale is to ensure someone who has designs on power are dealt with in the strictest manner at the earliest opportunity.
informal 2.1 Have an undisclosed sexual interest in: a bloke called Kevin who, in Henry’s view, had had designs on Elinor
More example sentences
  • A Geordie bus driver, captivated by my southern charm, had designs on me that weren't entirely honourable.
  • He had designs on two of our daughters, but wasn't able to make a move because he was terrified of me.
  • What he doesn't count on, however, is the children's mean-spirited ability to thwart every red-blooded male who has designs on their mother.

Definition of design in:

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