Ms. Gokturk

Adv Comp

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