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From Middle English definen, from Old French definer, variant of definir, from Latin dēfīniō (limit, settle, define), from + fīniō (set a limit, bound, end)


  • IPA(key): /dɪˈfaɪn/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪn


define (third-person singular simple present defines, present participle defining, simple past and past participle defined)

  1. to determine with precision; to mark out with distinctness; to ascertain or exhibit clearly
    • Sir Isaac Newton
      Rings [] very distinct and well defined.
    • 2013 July-August, Lee S. Langston, “The Adaptable Gas Turbine”, in (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      Turbines have been around for a long time—windmills and water wheels are early examples. The name comes from the Latin turbo, meaning vortex, and thus the defining property of a turbine is that a fluid or gas turns the blades of a rotor, which is attached to a shaft that can perform useful work.
    the defining power of an optical instrument
  2. (obsolete) to settle, decide (an argument etc.) [16th-17th c.]
  3. to express the essential nature of something
    • 2013 May-June, Brian Hayes, “Crinkly Curves”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 3, page 178:
      Cantor defined a one-to-one correspondence between the points of the square and the points of the line segment. Every point in the square was associated with a single point in the segment; every point in the segment was matched with a unique point in the square.
    I define myself as a techno-anarchist.
  4. to state the meaning of a word, phrase, sign, or symbol
    The textbook defined speed as velocity divided by time.
  5. to describe, explain, or make definite and clear
  6. to demark sharply the outlines or limits of an area or concept
    • 2012 March-April, Jan Sapp, “Race Finished”, in American Scientist, volume 100, number 2, page 164:
      Few concepts are as emotionally charged as that of race. The word conjures up a mixture of associations—culture, ethnicity, genetics, subjugation, exclusion and persecution. But is the tragic history of efforts to define groups of people by race really a matter of the misuse of science, the abuse of a valid biological concept?
    to define the legal boundaries of a property
  7. (mathematics) to establish the referent of a term or notation

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit



define (plural defines)

  1. (programming) a kind of macro in source code that replaces one text string with another wherever it occurs
    • 1996, James Gosling, Henry McGilton, The Java Language Environment
      From the computer programming perspective, Java looks like C and C++ while discarding the overwhelming complexities of those languages, such as typedefs, defines, preprocessor, unions, pointers, and multiple inheritance.
    • 1999, Ian Joyner, Objects unencapsulated: Java, Eiffel, and C++ (page 309)
      Anyone who has attempted to do OO programming in a conventional language using defines will find out that it is impossible to realize the benefits easily, if at all, without compiler support.


Further readingEdit






  1. third-person singular (ele and ela, also used with você and others) present indicative of definir
  2. second-person singular (tu, sometimes used with você) affirmative imperative of definir



  • IPA(key): /deˈfine/, [d̪eˈfine]



  1. Third-person singular (él, ella, also used with usted?) present indicative form of definir.
  2. Informal second-person singular () affirmative imperative form of definir.