from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To state the precise meaning of (a word or sense of a word, for example).
  • transitive v. To describe the nature or basic qualities of; explain: define the properties of a new drug; a study that defines people according to their median incomes.
  • transitive v. To delineate the outline or form of: gentle hills that were defined against the sky.
  • transitive v. To specify distinctly: define the weapons to be used in limited warfare.
  • transitive v. To give form or meaning to: "For him, a life is defined by action” ( Jay Parini).
  • intransitive v. To make or write a definition.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To determine.
  • v. To express the essential nature of something.
  • v. To state the meaning of a word or word group or a sign or symbol.
  • v. To describe, explain, or make definite and clear.
  • v. To demark sharply the outlines or limits of an area or concept.
  • n. A kind of macro in source code that replaces one text string with another wherever it occurs.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To determine; to decide.
  • transitive v. To fix the bounds of; to bring to a termination; to end.
  • transitive v. To determine or clearly exhibit the boundaries of; to mark the limits of.
  • transitive v. To determine with precision; to mark out with distinctness; to ascertain or exhibit clearly.
  • transitive v. To determine the precise signification of; to fix the meaning of; to describe accurately; to explain; to expound or interpret.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To determine, declare, or mark the limit of; circumscribe; determine or indicate the bounds or outlines of with precision; mark or set out clearly: as, to define the extent of a kingdom or country.
  • To fix, establish, or prescribe authoritatively: as, to define the duties of an officer.
  • To state the signification of; explain what is expressed by (a word, a phrase, etc.); state the nature or essential properties of: as, to define virtue; define your meaning more clearly.
  • To determine; settle; decide.
  • To determine; decide; give judgment.
  • To state a definition.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. decide upon or fix definitely
  • v. show the form or outline of
  • v. determine the essential quality of
  • v. determine the nature of
  • v. give a definition for the meaning of a word


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English definen, diffinen, from Old French definir, diffiner, from Latin dēfīnīre, to limit, determine : dē-, intensive pref.; see de- + fīnis, boundary, limit.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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


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