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Sources for definitionsEdit


For a definition to be meaningful, all words in the definition must be defined.

E.g. 'Information is data about entities.' This is unhelpful for several reasons: 1) the word data is undefined and is difficult to define without using the word information (recursive). 2) the word entities is vague. 3) the statement is related to the USE of information, not what it IS.

A classic example of this is the 'definition' of a chair, 'a chair is an item of furniture used to sit on', this is a USE or DESCRIPTION of a chair and should not form part of a definition. However, 'a chair is a seat suspended approximately 40cm from the floor, always with a back, and sometimes with arm rests' is closer to a true definition of a chair. The use can be added later by way of re-inforcement.

There is a reason why this distinction between use/description and definition is important. Uses NARROW the perception and definitions EXPAND the perception. For example, knowing a chair is '...used to sit on' gives it only one use, but knowing that a chair is '...a seat suspended approx 40cm...' allows the potential user to see its possible fitness as a one-step step ladder, or as a barroom fighting implement, or as a door jam, or as part of a lion-tamers protection, or as an anchor for a small boat, or as a temporary parcel holder, and so on.

Most dictionaries suffer from this fault, probably to deliberately save space. Many so-called 'definitions' of such words as information, knowledge, strategy and other information related issues are actually uses or descriptions and, as such, unhelpful to those who wish to see the bigger picture.

I believe that it is essential that both Wikipedia and Wiktionary keep this in mind if they wish to make a truly new form of both.

"If you don't thoroughly understand what you are working with, you will never get the most value out of it." E. Dance.

-- 12:15, 7 November 2005 (UTC)

"For a definition to be meaningful, all words in the definition must be defined."
The last word in the dictionary is defined using words appearing before it. So we don't really need this word, we could just replace it with its definition. Same argument applies to the second last word. Etc. So we end up only needing the first word in the dictionary!
This argument is logically flawed because there can be words defined by other words after them in the dictionary which are in turn defined directly or indirectly in terms of themselves.
My point is that dictionaries are necessarily recursive. 06:39, 1 January 2006 (UTC)
Your example "Chair:a seat suspended approx 40cm from floor with a back". What is a "seat"? Something you can sit on? Is that not a definition by USE? If I find a rock that I can sit on with another rock forming a back, is that a chair (no obvious "floor" in the rockpile)? Is a sling (with a back) suspended from the ceiling or a parachute a chair? 06:39, 1 January 2006 (UTC)

"virus definition"Edit

Do we cover this sense as the entry stands? ---> Tooironic 22:50, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

I suppose "a product of defining" covers it, but only clumsily. It's the set of traits that serve to identify the particular virus. Equinox 22:55, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Return to "definition" page.