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A definition is a passage describing the [meaning] of a term (a [word] or [phrase] or other set of [symbol] s). The term to be defined is the (plural definienda ). A term may have many different senses or meanings. For each such specific sense, a (plural definientia ) is a cluster of words that defines it.

A chief difficulty in managing definition is the need to use other terms that are already understood or whose definitions are easily obtainable. The use of the term in a simple example may suffice. By contrast, a [dictionary definition] has additional details, typically including an [etymology] showing snapshots of the earlier meanings and the parent language.

Like other words, the term definition has subtly different meanings in different contexts. A definition may be descriptive of the general use meaning, or stipulative of the speaker's immediate intentional meaning. For example, in formal languages like mathematics, a 'stipulative' definition guides a specific discussion. A descriptive definition can be shown to be "right" or "wrong" by comparison to general usage, but a stipulative definition can only be disproved by showing a logical contradiction [ /definitions.htm#part5.1] .

A [precising definition] extends the descriptive dictionary definition (lexical definition) of a term for a specific purpose by including additional criteria that narrow down the set of things meeting the definition.

[C.L. Stevenson] has identified [persuasive definition] as a form of stipulative definition which purports to describe the "true" or "commonly accepted" meaning of a term, while in reality stipulating an altered use, perhaps as an argument for some specific view.

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