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Help:Types of definition

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A dictionary definition is generally used for two purposes. It is used by 1) people who do not know the meaning of a term and want to extract its meaning from the definition; or 2) people who know a concept behind a word and look at it at the level of comparison and relations. In the first case, providing examples (red: the color of fruits such as tomatoes and strawberries) may be more useful while in the second case a precise definition uniquely distinguishing the concept from related concepts may be more useful (red: the color of light in the wavelength range of roughly 630–740 nm). OmegaWiki aims to satisfy both needs.

There are many different types of definitions[1], only some of which are suitable for a dictionary such as OmegaWiki.

Acceptable form of definition[edit]

Intentional definition[edit]

An intentional definition defines by listing properties that a thing must have in order to be part of the set captured by the definition.

1) Notional definition (Aristotelian definition) is a definition in which the class (specific group) to which the term belongs, and the features that differentiate the term from all others in its class are stated.

car: A road vehicle powered by a motor, designed to carry a driver and a small number of passengers, and usually having two front and two rear wheels.

Here, "road vehicle" is the class to which the term belongs, and the rest of the definition differentiate the term from all others in its class.

2) Operational definition is a definition that describes a test to determine whether a word falls within a concept.

hard: Having the characteristic of not yielding easily to blows or pressure.
circle: The loci of all points equidistant from a center point.
weight: A result of measurement of an object on a newton spring scale.

Extensional definition[edit]

An extensional definition of a concept or term formulates its meaning by specifying its extension, that is, every object that falls under the definition of the concept or term in question.

1) Ostentive definition An ostensive definition conveys the meaning of a term by pointing out examples.

red: the color of certain objects such as tomatoes, stawberries or stop signs.

2) Enumerative definition An enumerative definition of a concept or term is a special type of extensional definition that gives an explicit and exhaustive listing of all the objects that fall under the concept or term in question. Enumerative definitions are only possible for finite sets and only practical for relatively small sets.

arabic numerals: One of the ten digits 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0.

3) Demonstrative definition A demonstrative definition is to define something by pointing to it.

exclamation mark: The "!" character.

Coordinative definition[edit]

Definition of a theoretical term using non-theoretical terms.

meter: A unit of measurement equal to forty-millionth of the earth's circumference.

Theoretical definition[edit]

A theoretical (or conceptual) definition gives the meaning of a word in terms of the theories of a specific discipline

weight: A measurement of gravitational force acting on an object.
(compare this definition of weight with that given above, in the Operational definition section.)

Grammatical definition[edit]

A grammatical definition explains a word in terms of its function in the sentence.

and: a word used to separate the last item in a list from the other ones.'

Connotative definition[edit]

A connotative definition explains how a common word may carry a different meaning from its literal sense.

rat: A dishonest, contemptible, or worthless person.

Unacceptable definitions[edit]

The following types of definition are not acceptable for use in OmegaWiki.

Circular definitions[edit]

Circular definition is defining a term either by using the same term with the same meaning in the definition, or by using grammatical variation of the term.

short: Having a short length.
short: Not long.

Contextual definitions[edit]

A definition of a sentence in which the word is used, instead of just the word itself.

brother: A is the brother of B means A is male and has the same parent as B.

Loaded Definition[edit]

A definition that is prejudicial, or biased.

lottery: a tax on those who cannot calculate probabilities.

Nominal definition[edit]

A definition about the signifier (the word or symbol representing the concept, rather than the concept itself) should generally not be used.

car: the word for a motorized vehicle with four wheels.

Rather, the following form should be used:

car: a motorized vehicle with four wheels.

Such definition are only allowed for functional words that have no clear definition but do have a grammatical function.

Persuasive definition[edit]

A definition that is meant to convince someone of a political message or worldview.

atheist: A person who does not yet realize that God exists.

Prescriptive definitions[edit]

Prescriptive definitions are definitions that are prescribed or suggested by a single person or authority. Such definitions should not be used unless there is evidence for its usage independent of the prescriber.

copyrighteous: Relating to a feeling of moral superiority based on one's responsible copyright views and actions.



See also[edit]