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

  • intransitive verb To conceive or fashion in the mind; invent.
  • intransitive verb To formulate a plan for; devise.
  • intransitive verb To make a graphic or schematic representation of (something), especially as a plan for its structure.
  • intransitive verb To create or contrive for a particular purpose or effect.
  • intransitive verb To have as a goal or purpose; intend.
  • intransitive verb To make or execute plans.
  • intransitive verb To create designs.
  • noun A drawing or sketch.
  • noun A graphic representation, especially a detailed plan for construction or manufacture.
  • noun An ornamental pattern. synonym: figure.
  • noun The purposeful or inventive arrangement of parts or details.
  • noun A particular plan or method: synonym: plan.
  • noun The art or practice of designing or making designs.
  • noun A reasoned purpose; an intent.
  • noun Deliberate intention.
  • noun A secretive or underhanded plot or scheme.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A drawing, especially in outline or little more; any representation made with pencil, pen, or brush.
  • noun A plan or an outline in general; any representation or statement of the main parts or features of a projected thing or act; specifically, in architecture, a plan of an edifice, as represented by the ground-plans, elevations, sections, and whatever other drawings may be necessary to guide its construction.
  • noun Artistic invention in drawing or sculpture; the practical application of artistic principles or exercise of artistic faculties; the art of designing.
  • noun The arrangement or combination of the details of a picture, a statue, or an edifice.
  • noun A scheme or plan in the mind; purpose; intention; aim.
  • noun Specifically An intention or a plan to act in some particular way; a project; especially, in a bad sense, a plan to do something harmful or illegal: commonly with upon.
  • noun Contrivance; adaptation of means to a preconceived end: as, the evidence of design in a watch.
  • noun The purpose for which something exists or is done; the object or reason for something; the final purpose.
  • noun Synonyms Drawing, outline, draft, delineation.
  • noun Project, Scheme, etc. (see plan, n.), intent, aim, mark, object.
  • To draw the outline or figure of, especially of a proposed work of art; trace out; sketch, as a pattern or model.
  • To plan or outline in general; determine upon and mark out the principal features or parts of, as a projected thing or act; plan; devise.
  • To contrive for a purpose; project for the attainment of a particular end; form in idea, as a scheme.
  • To devote to mentally; set apart in intention; intend.
  • To purpose; intend; mean: with an infinitive as object: as, he designs to write an essay, or to study law.
  • To mark out by tokens; indicate; point out; designate; appoint.
  • To signify.
  • To do original work in a graphic or plastic art; compose a picture, or make an original plan, as an architect, a landscape-gardener, or an inventor.
  • To invent.
  • To set out or start, with a certain destination in view; direct one's course.
  • noun Specifically, in music, either the melodic pattern, the harmonic process, or the rhythmic and metric form adopted in composition, by which a particular work or a class of works is made coherent and characteristic. In the evolution of artistic music the principles of design have been but slowly perceived and established.

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

  • transitive verb To draw preliminary outline or main features of; to sketch for a pattern or model; to delineate; to trace out; to draw.
  • transitive verb To mark out and exhibit; to designate; to indicate; to show; to point out; to appoint.
  • transitive verb To create or produce, as a work of art; to form a plan or scheme of; to form in idea; to invent; to project; to lay out in the mind.
  • transitive verb To intend or purpose; -- usually with for before the remote object, but sometimes with to.
  • noun A preliminary sketch; an outline or pattern of the main features of something to be executed, as of a picture, a building, or a decoration; a delineation; a plan.
  • noun A plan or scheme formed in the mind of something to be done; preliminary conception; idea intended to be expressed in a visible form or carried into action; intention; purpose; -- often used in a bad sense for evil intention or purpose; scheme; plot.
  • noun Specifically, intention or purpose as revealed or inferred from the adaptation of means to an end.
  • noun The realization of an inventive or decorative plan; esp., a work of decorative art considered as a new creation; conception or plan shown in completed work.


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

[Middle English designen, from Latin dēsignāre, to designate; see designate.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French designer, from Latin designare ("to mark out, point out, describe, design, contrive"), from de- (or dis-) + signare ("to mark"), from signum ("mark").


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  • "Design" is primarily a transitive verb. An easy test for that is to use the verb in a first-person statement and see if the statement is complete without an object. If someone says "I design", the obvious response is, "Design what???" "Design" by itself isn't informative; it needs an object to make a complete statement, e.g. "I design airplane flight controls" or "I design circuit boards".

    In fact I can't think of any use of "design" as a verb that is intransitive!

    July 25, 2023