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Definitions limit or explain the meaning of a term or concept.

I. What is Definition?

Definitions limit or explain the meaning of a term or concept. Although the term definition leads most people to think of a dictionary, definitions are not always precise or universally accepted (Connelly 181).

II. Different types of definitions exist:
. Standard definitions
. Regulatory definitions
. Evolving definitions
. Qualifying definitions
. Cultural definitions
. Personal definitions
. Invented definitions
(Read pages 181-3 for explanations of each definition type.)

III. Methods of Definition (pgs.183-4) – Definitions can be established using a number of techniques:

. Defining through synonyms – use a word with similar meaning to define a term; this is the simplest method of providing meaning for a word.
. Defining by description – uses details about a word or subject to define a term; this method gives readers a sense of what a term might look, feel, taste, smell, or sound like.
. Defining by example – uses specific illustrations to establish meaning. Examples can establish meaning through identification. Complex or abstract concepts are easier to comprehend if defined by example.
. Defining by comparison – uses analogies readers can understand to provide meaning to something less familiar.
. Extended definition – this method is necessary when defining highly complex words (love; racism; justice) or concepts. A full description of abstract, disputed, or complex terms requires several paragraphs (even whole essays).

Your Definition Essay

For your definition essay assignment, you will need to apply most, if not all, of the methods listed above to develop and support the term you choose to explain and illustrate (since you are writing an essay to define a selected term, you are already defining through extended definition). Your goal as the author of a definition piece is to establish the meaning of a term, using the methods of definition, for the purpose of sharing a common understanding of that term with your reader. For this assignment, you want to choose a term that means a lot to you; since you will need to produce a strong 500 word essay to successfully complete this assignment, you want to select a term/topic that is rich in personal meaning and significance.

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