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Friday, February 23, 2018

What is a definition?


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Ftaaffe

Photo license: CC BY-SA 4.0


What is a definition? Here is my definition:


A definition is a statement of the meaning of a word


I believe that most words have multiple meanings. Therefore, most words have multiple definitions. To deal with this, the first step in creating a definition is to figure out which meaning will be targeted.


When making a definition its important to include all of the instances that qualify and exclude all of the instances that do not qualify. Sometimes this can be very tricky, because some words represent complex concepts. I believe a good method for making a definition is to think of examples of the word being used and try to find the common denominator.


I also believe that judging the adequacy of a definition is always subjective to a degree. For example, take my definition of 'definition': a statement of the meaning of a word. Would this definition be better if I replaced the word 'meaning' with my definition of 'meaning': an underlying representation? This replacement would cause the new definition to be: a statement of the underlying representation of a word. Is the new definition better? Although I think it's close, I believe the first definition is subjectively better due to its simplicity.



License: CC BY-SA 4.0