from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • transitive verb To give an account of in speech or writing.
  • transitive verb To convey an idea or impression of; characterize.
  • transitive verb To represent pictorially; depict.
  • transitive verb To trace the form or outline of.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To delineate or mark the form or figure of; trace out; outline: as, to describe a circle with the compasses.
  • To form or trace by motion: as, a star describes an ellipse in the heavens.
  • To write down; inscribe.
  • To represent orally or by writing; portray in words; give an account of: as, to describe a person or a scene; to describe a battle.
  • To distribute into classes or divisions; divide for representation.
  • Synonyms Describe, Narrate, portray, explain. Describe applies primarily to what exists—space, and by extension to what occurs—time, but narrate applies only to the latter: as, to describe a view, a race, or a siege; to narrate an experience or a history. Describe implies often the vividness of personal observation; narrate is more applicable to long series of events. A single narrative may contain many descriptions of separate events.
  • To make descriptions; use the power of describing.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb To use the faculty of describing; to give a description.
  • transitive verb To represent by drawing; to draw a plan of; to delineate; to trace or mark out
  • transitive verb To represent by words written or spoken; to give an account of; to make known to others by words or signs.
  • transitive verb obsolete To distribute into parts, groups, or classes; to mark off; to class.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive To represent in words.
  • verb transitive (mathematics) To give rise to a geometrical structure.
  • verb transitive (biology) To scientifically reveal a new species by technically explaining its characteristics and particularly how it differs from other species.

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

  • verb make a mark or lines on a surface
  • verb to give an account or representation of in words
  • verb give a description of
  • verb identify as in botany or biology, for example


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

[Middle English describen, from Latin dēscrībere, to write down : dē-, de- + scrībere, to write; see skrībh- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English descriven, from Old French descrivre, from Latin dēscrībō ("I copy off, transcribe, sketch off, describe in painting or writing"), from  ("off") + scrībō ("write"); see scribe and shrive.


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  • I've tried to remember this word a few times — when you're making a geometric figure in the air, there's no better verb than "describe."

    November 9, 2008