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define/definition – Misused Words

This article series aims to eliminate usage errors and help non-native speakers to write clearly and fluently. We suggest that you always do proper research and use style guides effectively. For anything you are not sure of, feel free to ask us.

Misused word
define/definition

Alternatives
establish, lay down, set out, draft, establishment, drafting, design.

Explanation
In English, “define” means “to state the precise meaning of” (for example “we have already defined the meaning of control”). It does not mean “establish,” “set out,” “lay down” or “illustrate.”

Example
Avoid this:

“The main tasks and activities of the IMI Joint Undertaking shall be: to define and carry out the annual implementation plan referred to in Article 18 via calls for project …”

Hint: Even if the Turkish source text is constructed with the word “tanimlamak”, not every instance is translatable with the verb “define”.

Use this:

“The main tasks and activities of the IMI Joint Undertaking shall be: to establish and carry out the annual implementation plan referred to in Article 18 via calls for project …”

Avoid that:

“A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities.”

Use that:

“A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the design and implementation of all Union policies and activities.”

Source
Misused English words and expressions in EU publications by Jeremy Gardner [Updated 8.11.2013]

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