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Definition Essay: Purpose

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Definition Essay: Writing Methods

The general purpose of a definition essay is to clearly and concisely explain a word, term or concept. This purpose can take on several avenues, such as to deepen the meaning of a term, to broaden the meaning by redirecting the obvious and present understanding to another explanation, or to entertain the reader.
An extended definition of a term takes on a much more deep and thorough goal. An extended definition intends to ‘extend’ your knowledge or understanding of a term. The use of examples, stories, anecdotes and experiences is usually used to accomplish this, as well as giving comprehensive information about the term such as its noun, verb, adjective, and adverb meanings, and the origin of the word. Needless to say, much research goes into writing this type of essay.
Methods of definition include Distinction, Examining, Analysis, and Etymology.
• Distinction: This method explains not only what the term or phrase is, but compares it to other related terms and clearly explains what it is not. Bringing out the definition in this manner helps the reader to more clearly understand exactly the point being made. An example of the distinction method would be a coupon. A coupon is a paper or an online code that offers the consumer a discount if they purchase a particular item. In contrast, a sales premium is a bonus item given to the consumer when they purchase something else, such as a free trial bottle of shampoo when a large bottle of conditioner is purchased.
• Examining denotation and connotation: Denotation is the actual meaning of a word or term, and connotation is a suggestive meaning of the same term. When using this method, the writer compares both definitions of a word. An example of this method would be the word dog. The literal meaning of dog is a domesticated canid, Canis familiaris, bred in many varieties. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dog?s=t, n.d.). The connotative meaning could be used in a derogatory slur such as, “you dirty dog,” referring to a person with whom the speaker is angry with.
• Cultural and Philosophical Analysis: If the writer was defining ‘religion’ using this method, he would perform a concise study “of the central themes and concepts involved in religious traditions using all the main areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics and value theory, the philosophy of language, philosophy of science, law, sociology, politics, history, and so on. “ The cultural aspect of religion would investigate religious beliefs and practices of many cultures, and also the history of religious events such as the Holocaust. (Taliaferro & Zalta, 2007)
• Etymology: This method explains a word or term by its origin and roots. The word lion means a large, usually tawny yellow cat, Panthera leo, native to Africa and southern Asia, having a tuftedtail and, in the male, a large mane. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lion?s=t, 2014). The origin of the word came from late 12c., from O.Fr. lion, from L. leonem (nom. leo), from the Greek. leon (gen. leontos). (Online Etymology Dictionary, 2014). Digging deeper into the meaning and origin of words can give a more precise understanding of the word in its context. Such as in the Scripture “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee….” – Daniel 6:22. The Hebrew word for “lion,” as used here is ariy (pr. ar-ee), which actually comes from the Chaldean word “aryeh” (pr. ar-yay) and means “in the sense of violence, lion, pierce.” (Gargano, 2014) This gives the scripture a much more relatable and intense meaning to the reader.
Developing a definition for your essay involves process, thought and preparation. One should not rely completely on one method alone, nor should they rely on one definition from the dictionary, since the purpose is to broaden the readers knowledge of a term. Exploration should be exercised in both of these areas to achieve an effective and successful presentation of information.
References
Gargano, M. (2014, 04 30). http://www.examiner.com/article/do-you-need-the-lions-mouths-shut?CID=examiner_alerts_article. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dog?s=t, Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014. . (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2014, from http://dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lion?s=t. (2014, 04 30). Retrieved from http://dictionary.com.
Online Etymology Dictionary. (2014, 04 30). Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lion.
Taliaferro, C., & Zalta, E. N. (2007, March 12). http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philosophy-religion/. Retrieved April 30, 2014, from .

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