Definition of define in English:

define

verb

[with object]
  • 1State or describe exactly the nature, scope, or meaning of.

    ‘the contract will seek to define the client's obligations’
    • ‘Previous England teams had been aiming to compete in the knowledge that victory was defined as having more points than the opposition.’
    • ‘For the purposes of this paper, prostitution is defined as exchange of personal interaction of a sexual nature for payment.’
    • ‘Ornamental plumage was defined as any plumage whose functional purpose could not be explained by the requirements of flight or insulation.’
    • ‘Baseline status was defined as the family's situation as described by the family within the 2 weeks before admission to the ICU.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Herd immunity only works when a critical mass of the population is immunised and is defined as ‘the protection of particularly vulnerable people by the vaccination of others’.’
    • ‘The rules for their establishment are strictly defined by existing regulatory documents.’
    • ‘Finally, there are combined capabilities, which may be defined as internal capabilities combined with suitable external conditions for the exercise of the function.’
    • ‘Counter-party data is defined as the data that identifies and describes trading partners.’
    • ‘The movement from one point to another is never clearly tracked nor can the activities be easily defined as falling into one camp or another.’
    • ‘In Perthshire, 76 out of 208 fields are already showing signs of damage, and up to half the country has been defined as being ‘at risk’ from water erosion.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘After some debate, the team agreed to define the Diaspora as broadly as possible and thus to include the greatest number of peoples and cultural forms in the exhibition.’
    • ‘Our first objective was to study tactics that could clearly be defined as sexually coercive, asking both women and men about both experiencing and using these tactics.’
    explain, expound, interpret, elucidate, explicate, describe, clarify
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    1. 1.1 Give the meaning of (a word or phrase), especially in a dictionary.
      ‘the dictionary defines it as ‘a type of pasture’’
      • ‘There is just so much variety and different perceptions of the word ‘Adventure’ that people have come up with all sorts of activities to define this word.’
      • ‘The entire question [in Roper] turned on how one defines the words ‘cruel and unusual’ in the Eighth Amendment.’
      • ‘In a way, what does it matter how the word is defined?’
      • ‘Even worse, it was a 1960s dictionary and defined the words in ways very different from the law.’
      • ‘I'd like to hear you - see if you can define these words for me.’
      • ‘But when one sits down to apply this term to concrete situations, we may vary widely in the way we define the word.’
      • ‘Epstein has defined the essence of snobbery as not merely the wish to impress others but the effort to make oneself feel superior at the expense of others.’
      • ‘Webster's online dictionary defines the word ‘crusade’ as a corrective enterprise, which is undertaken with zeal and enthusiasm.’
      • ‘The legislation did not define the phrase ‘just cause’ when considering dismissal or veto of council members, giving the minister carte blanche.’
      • ‘This is not really helpful unless you also know how this same dictionary defines the word, religious.’
      • ‘He never really defined the word ‘plan,’ but I've grown old enough now to know what he meant.’
      • ‘Each word is defined, discussed and examples are given of appropriate usage.’
      • ‘The same dictionary defines the words ‘in business’ as ‘habitually occupied in trade or commerce’.’
      • ‘It's not jazz, at least the way that word is defined by modern music fans.’
      • ‘This sent me to see how this word is defined in the dictionary and how it has been used.’
      • ‘I tend to agree with this remark in the sense that Encyclopedia Britannica broadly defines the word ‘intelligence’.’
      • ‘It's fun to ask people to define the phrase ‘graphic novel.’’
      • ‘Have you been able to get a better picture about how we defined those two phrases from that meeting?’
      • ‘Until then, those words are defined by everyone differently.’
      • ‘Founded by Cardinal Richelieu in 1635, its purpose was to produce a dictionary that would define all significant words of the French language.’
      • ‘Now Collins defines the word as grossly offensive, violent or unrestrained behaviour, or extravagant or immoderate.’
    2. 1.2 Make up or establish the character or essence of.
      ‘for some, the football club defines their identity’
      • ‘Which of these characteristics defines her identity?’
      • ‘McManus' character is defined by a relentless and elemental instinct to compete, but nothing brings out the raw desire in him like International Rules football.’
      • ‘I read somewhere recently that it is often not the exact order of notes which defines the real essence of a piece of music but the feel of the sound.’
      • ‘Actors may spend six months refining and defining their character in advance of any actual filming.’
      • ‘That defines her character: the loneliness, the longing, the planning, and the meanness too.’
      • ‘It's what defines his character, says his campaign.’
      • ‘The young characters define their own world and establish their own values, which are often at variance with society's and their parents' demands.’
      • ‘Costumes help define character and establish setting.’
      • ‘In Jewish thought a name is prophetic, determining and defining a person's character and personal history.’
      • ‘Work still defines a male character's sense of identity and his position within the social order.’
      • ‘These challenges, though unpleasant at times, ultimately produce within us the character and determination that defines the very essence of the Coast Guard.’
      • ‘Most of us think of identity as the single irreducible thing that defines character, or place, or culture.’
      • ‘What would be the specific reference points around which national character could be defined?’
      • ‘The title spreads a layer of hopefulness over the sense of futility that defines the novel's characters.’
      • ‘Often, I have people listening to music that I would never listen to personally, because it fits and defines their character.’
      • ‘Part II reviews how municipalities define their own character and set standards to zone with respect to community character.’
      • ‘From the beginning Pakeha New Zealanders have struggled to establish and define a national identity for themselves.’
      • ‘You are part of the process of shaping and defining the character you play.’
      • ‘Authority has shown us that it deserves constant questioning and the very essence of that defines us.’
      • ‘More than the internationals, club football defines the sport.’
  • 2Mark out the boundary or limits of.

    ‘clearly defined boundaries’
    • ‘Arrogance defines its own boundaries, foreclosing new possibilities of knowing.’
    • ‘Public opinion is what matters here, because that defines the boundaries in which politicians act.’
    • ‘Countries whose boundaries were defined by colonial powers rather than their own peoples have been ravaged by decades of seemingly intractable cross-border conflicts and civil war.’
    • ‘It is therefore a good subject for an anthology, either a general one or one defined by specific boundaries of time and geography.’
    • ‘Just as the water that brushes the shoreline of their Gulf Island home defines their boundaries, it also protects the residents from the concerns of mainlanders.’
    • ‘Sometimes the very building itself has been removed, leaving only an orphaned wall for the purpose of maintaining boundaries, defining the lines between private and public.’
    • ‘In the words of one insider, that means ‘ending occupation, defining boundaries, banning settlements and guaranteeing internal security’.’
    • ‘Conceptually, the new building can be thought of as a folded strip running through and around the site, feeling limits and defining boundaries.’
    • ‘A gray window pane in the image on the far left defines the boundary between interior and exterior space.’
    • ‘Now the concept of ‘public safety’ has no inherent specific content that would impose a stopping point or define a boundary beyond which it does not extend.’
    • ‘For closed-set believers, how one defines the boundary is crucial.’
    • ‘Linda says Brittany, while not quite testing limits, is defining boundaries.’
    • ‘It exists as infinite potentiality without clearly defined boundaries or parameters.’
    • ‘A highway partially defines the boundary of the Capital - where three million people live in a city that resembles Paris.’
    • ‘The 14-year-old Moorland Line is the boundary that defines moorland within England's less favoured pastures.’
    • ‘Some people do not like to collaborate, they really like a more clearly defined set of 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.’
    • ‘In Maori land tenure, tribal boundaries were defined by the putative area settled and utilized by the ancestors, modified by wars and invasions.’
    • ‘The so-called ‘moral law’ is certainly definable, but to clearly define the boundaries of ceremonial and civil law is far more complex.’
    • ‘My point is that Whitehouse Lane currently defines the northern boundary of the airport's operations.’
    determine, establish, fix, specify, designate, decide, stipulate, settle, set out, mark out, mark off
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    1. 2.1 Make clear the outline of; delineate.
      ‘she defined her eyes by applying eyeshadow to her eyelids’
      • ‘A delicate paper triptych titled Menstruation Carnations used pencil and blood to define three starkly outlined, centralized flowers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This luxurious piece of furniture is rectilinear, with sharply defined planes delineated by vertical and horizontal bands of ornamental marquetry.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Solahudin suggested a periodic dialog among religious organizations to communicate their aspirations and define the clear direction of their respective struggles.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Each agency has defined responsibilities, and clear aims and objectives, set out in a Ministerially-approved Framework Document.’
      • ‘Against a rich blue background, heavy lines delineate swooping curves that define a vertical, multicolored form with a bulbous yellow protrusion.’
      • ‘By far the most effective way to turn fear into confidence is to be clear - to define the future in such vivid terms that we can see where we are headed.’
      • ‘First, these four movies pushed me more than the rest to define a clear set of aesthetic principles by which to evaluate them.’
      • ‘To do so, military leadership must set up and define clear goals of what it wishes to attain.’
      outline, delineate, silhouette
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Origin

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’).

Pronunciation

define

/dɪˈfʌɪn/