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Supposedly vs. Supposably


[dih-fahy-ning] /dɪˈfaɪ nɪŋ/
decisive; critically important:
Taking a course in architecture was a defining turn in her life.
Related forms
nondefining, adjective
self-defining, adjective


[dih-fahyn] /dɪˈfaɪn/
verb (used with object), defined, defining.
to state or set forth the meaning of (a word, phrase, etc.): They disagreed on how to define “liberal.”.
to explain or identify the nature or essential qualities of; describe:
to define judicial functions.
to fix or lay down clearly and definitely; specify distinctly:
to define one's responsibilities.
to determine or fix the boundaries or extent of:
to define property with stakes.
to make clear the outline or form of:
The roof was boldly defined against the sky.
verb (used without object), defined, defining.
to set forth the meaning of a word, phrase, etc.; construct a definition.
Origin of define
1325-75; Middle English def(f)inen < Anglo-French, Old French definer to put an end to < Latin dēfīnīre to limit, define, equivalent to dē- de- + fīnīre; see finish
Related forms
definable, adjective
definability, noun
definably, adverb
definement, noun
definer, noun
misdefine, verb (used with object), misdefined, misdefining.
nondefinability, noun
nondefinable, adjective
nondefinably, adverb
nondefined, adjective
nondefiner, noun
predefine, verb (used with object), predefined, predefining.
redefine, verb (used with object), redefined, redefining.
self-defined, adjective
semidefined, adjective
undefinable, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for defining
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The Duke laughed, and I laughed also; Elsa was very grave and business-like in defining her requirements.

    The King's Mirror Anthony Hope
  • Thus England was fashioning a new system and defining a new policy.

    The Fathers of New England Charles M. Andrews
  • In defining the natural sentiments of pity, they would have declared them the illusions of the imagination.

    Martyria Augustus C. Hamlin
  • Orismologia -y: the defining of scientific or technical terms.

  • In defining it, I can admit no term not expressing some essential point.

    The Actress in High Life Sue Petigru Bowen
British Dictionary definitions for defining


verb (transitive)
to state precisely the meaning of (words, terms, etc)
to describe the nature, properties, or essential qualities of
to determine the boundary or extent of
(often passive) to delineate the form or outline of: the shape of the tree was clearly defined by the light behind it
to fix with precision; specify
Derived Forms
definable, adjective
definability, noun
definably, adverb
definer, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French definer to determine, from Latin dēfīnīre to set bounds to, from fīnīre to finish
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for defining



late 14c., "to specify; to end," from Old French defenir "to end, terminate, determine," and directly from Latin definire "to limit, determine, explain," from de- "completely" (see de-) + finire "to bound, limit," from finis "boundary, end" (see finish (n.)). Related: Defined; defining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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