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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. Displaced native Old English āmearcian.


  • IPA(key): /dəˈskɹaɪb/, /dɪˈskɹaɪb/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪb
  • Hyphenation: de‧scribe


describe (third-person singular simple present describes, present participle describing, simple past and past participle described)

  1. (transitive) To represent in words.
    The feeling is difficult to describe, but not unpleasant.
    The geographer describes countries and cities.
    Several witnesses describe seeing lights in the sky that night.
    • 2014 November 2, Daniel Taylor, “Sergio Agüero strike wins derby for Manchester City against 10-man United”, in
      Yet the truth is that City would probably have been coasting by that point if the referee, Michael Oliver, had not turned down three separate penalties, at least two of which could be accurately described as certainties.
    • 1959, Georgette Heyer, chapter 1, in The Unknown Ajax:
      [] his lordship was out of humour. That was the way Chollacombe described as knaggy an old gager as ever Charles had had the ill-fortune to serve. Stiff-rumped, that's what he was, always rubbing the rust, or riding grub, like he had been for months past.
  2. (transitive) To represent by drawing; to draw a plan of; to delineate; to trace or mark out.
    to describe a circle by the compasses;   a torch waved about the head in such a way as to describe a circle
    • 1826, James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans:
      Uncas described an arc in the water with his own blade, and as the canoe passed swiftly on, Chingachgook recovered his paddle, and flourishing it on high, he gave the war-whoop of the Mohicans.
    • 1906, James George Frazer, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, volume 2, page 146:
      His body was contracted and bent towards them, and described an undulatory movement like that of a worm writhing.
  3. (transitive, mathematics) To give rise to a geometrical structure.
    The function describes a very complex surface.
  4. (transitive, taxonomy) To introduce a new taxon to science by explaining its characteristics and particularly how it differs from other taxa.
    The fungus was first described by a botanist.
  5. (obsolete) To distribute into parts, groups, or classes; to mark off; to class.


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Further reading[edit]





  1. second-person singular present active imperative of dēscrībō



From English describe.


describe (third-person singular simple present describes, present participle describin, simple past describit, past participle describit)

  1. to describe




  1. inflection of describir:
    1. third-person singular present indicative
    2. second-person singular imperative