set - definition and synonyms


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present tense
present participlesetting
past tenseset
past participleset
  1. 1
    [transitive] to put someone or something in a position
    set someone/something in/into/on/down/back etc:

    Tea’s ready,’ he told them and set down the tray.

    She set the baby on the floor to play.

    1. a.
      [transitive] [usually passive] if something is set somewhere, it is in that place or position

      It’s a traditional country house hotel, set in its own parklands.

      The bookcase was set into the wall.

      Our house is set back from the road.

    2. b.
      to put someone or something in a particular state

      The suspect has been accused of setting the restaurant on fire.

      set someone/something loose:

      Don’t set the dog loose.

      set someone/something free:

      The hostages have been set free after 34 days in captivity.

       Synonyms and related words
  2. 2
    [transitive] to make something happen, or to make someone do something
    set someone/something doing something:

    His mysterious phone calls were bound to set them wondering.

    set something in motion:

    That single photograph set his career as a photographer in motion.

  3. 3
    [transitive] to make a piece of equipment ready to operate

    The bomb was set to go off at eight o’clock.

    You can set it so that it does an automatic data backup at the end of each day.

    1. a.
      to change the time on a clock or the controls on a piece of equipment

      Can you help me set the VCR?

      set something at something:

      Set the thermostat at 68 degrees.

      set something for something:

      I’m setting the alarm for 6.30.

  4. 4
    [transitive] to decide when or where an event will happen
    set a date/time (for something):

    Have they set a date for the wedding?

    1. a.
      to decide the price or value of something

      They set the price of the house too high.

      The central bank is responsible for setting interest rates.

      Parents shouldn’t set too high a value on good exam results.

      Bail was set at £50,000.

  5. 5
    [transitive] to establish a rule, standard, limit etc that people must follow
    set rules/conditions/guidelines/limits/criteria (for something):

    Opposition parties have set conditions for peace negotiations to begin.

    set standards:

    Their teacher sets high standards and expects everyone to meet them.

  6. 6
    [transitive] to do something that influences the way that other things are done or the way that other people behave
    set a tone/pattern/fashion/trend (for something):

    Her opening remarks set the tone for the whole conference.

    It was one of the shows that set the trend for ‘reality television’.

     Synonyms and related words
  7. 7
    [transitive] to give something to someone to do or to achieve
    set someone a goal/challenge/objective/task:

    You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t set yourself any goals.

    set someone to do something:

    I’ve set myself to find a new job by Christmas.

    1. a.
      British to give students work to do as part of a course of study
      set someone something:

      I’m going to set you all an essay for the weekend.

  8. 8
    [transitive] [usually passive] to write or produce a play, book, film etc that happens in a particular time or place

    The film is set in 18th-century New England.

  9. 9
    [intransitive] when the sun sets, it goes below the horizon at the end of the day
  10. 10
    [transitive] to put the two ends of a broken bone back into the correct position so that they can grow into one piece again

    The doctor set my arm and put a cast on it.

    1. a.
      [intransitive] if a broken bone sets, the two ends of it grow into one piece again
  11. 11
    [intransitive/transitive] if a liquid sets, or if you set it, it forms a solid substance

    a type of concrete that sets in 15 minutes

  12. 12
    [intransitive/transitive] if your face or a part of it sets into a particular expression, or if you set it into a particular expression, you have that expression on your face

    His face set into a determined expression as he read the letter.

  13. 13
    [transitive] to arrange wet hair in a particular style so that it keeps that style when it becomes dry
  14. 14
    [transitive] to arrange letters and words on a special machine into the correct order so that you can print something
  15. 15
    [transitive] [usually passive] to put a jewel or stone in a piece of jewellery

    a necklace set with rubies