The Three Ways to Define
Definitions may be classified as three types: short, stipulative, or extended.
short: A short definition explains a word by a brief identification of its meaning. (This is the kind of definition that dictionaries provide.) A synonym. (i.e., nervousness = anxiety)
stipulative: Stipulative definitions identify the particular meaning you intend to use in your writing. (For example, the word liberal often has various connotations.) This is a formal definition: you may place the term to be defined in a general class and describe its particular characteristics. I.e., A watch à is a mechanical device -à is for telling time and is usually carried or worn.
à extended: These definitions may include both short and stipulative definitions, but they go far beyond both. They are essentially essays that seek to explain the writer's view of a subject, something that cannot be done effectively in a short definition. An extended definition may begin with a dictionary definition, but it goes on to add to, modify, and illustrate that definition. In so doing, it may use any of the patterns of development discussed earlier in this class: it may compare or contrast one meaning with another; it may provide descriptive or illustrative examples; it may show cause and effect. This type of writing allows the writer to insert him or herself into the context.
The Definition Essay
The job of the definition essay is to define the word/term accurately and enlighten the audience not only on defining the term, but also revealing the writer’s personality. Your goal is select a word or term of importance and relevance to you and use your exploration of the definition as a way to reveal yourself. The word or term chosen as a subject is either
v an unfamiliar word or term (i.e., accoutrement, tabula rasa)
v a word or term that has many possible meanings (i.e., liberal, freedom)
v familiar words or terms that may be used (or overused) in a particular sense to explore a personal or universal truth (i.e., mother, friend, love)
v moral, advice or a cliché worth examining (“You can’t have your cake and eat it, too” or “You can’t judge a book by its cover”)
YOUR TASK: You will write an extended definition in essay format, aiming for 850-1000 words. You will develop your definition by defining a new or difficult term or to rescue a controversial word or term from misconceptions and associations that may obscure its meaning from your perspective. You will provide your readers with far more information than you would in a synonym or dictionary. You will explore the meaning of your topic, whether it be a single word, phrase or a concept
v In many cases, you must consider what your readers already know, or think they know, about your topic.
v Are there popular misconceptions that need to be done away with?
v Are there aspects of the topic that are seldom considered?
v Have particular experiences helped you understand the topic?:
v You may use synonyms or formal definitions to help you define your topic, but you must convince your readers to accept your particular understanding of it. (See p. 332 for the four paragraph model on “freedom.”
Idea Bank Here are some terms that may help you think of a word/term you would like to write about. Pick one of these if you can’t think of one, but make sure whatever you pick can be turned into an extended definition and that it means something to you. You should care about your topic.
Obscene Honesty Graffiti Jock / Athlete
Google President Tree Hugger Omelet
Freedom Moral Racial or Ethnic Slur Organic
Family Airhead Physical description Patriot
Loser Long Island Girl/Guy LOL or other abbreviation Food-porn
Winner Workaholic Student Feminist
Equality Competition Happy Voice
Punk Slave-Driver Exploitation Politician
Friend Play Artificial Liberal
Joy Intuition Soup Time
Surfer Pirate Pick an App Smile
Teenager Wealth 1% Debate
Bum Charity BLM Stress
Wonder Bread Idealist Wall Lies
Artist Musician Terrorist Criminal
Minority Teenager Host Leader
American Protest Lucky Writer
Social ` Insanity Dog Media
Left Right Spirit Soul
Ethical Wednesday Costco Brand
School Hunger Poverty Dream
GMO # Cheating Plagiarism
Cliché “Words to Live By” White privilege Hangry
Global Warming Following Likes Garbage