1. “definition” defined
2. How to define a word or term
3. How to develop a definition paragraph or
4. Pay attention to some errors
5. In-class writing practice (assignment)
• “Happiness”
– How do you define it? Write one or more
sentences to define the term.
– How do you define “xueba”(学霸)?
①普通版:straight A student
②种族版:straight A-sian student
③崇拜版:straight A-mazing student
④羡慕嫉妒恨版:straight A-hole student
⑤腹黑诅咒版:straight A-lone forever student
⑥非人类版:straight A-lien student
• More versions:
– Digging Student
– Study Machine
– Learning machine
– Asian students
Happiness defined
1. Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and
what you do are in harmony. -----Mahatma Gandhi
2. Happiness is that state of consciousness which
proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.
----- Ayn Rand
3. Happiness is something that you are and it comes from
the way you think. ----- Wayne Dyer
4. Happiness is essentially a state of going somewhere,
wholeheartedly, one-directionally, without regret or
----- William H. Sheldon
5. Happiness is not a reward - it is a consequence.
----- Robert Ingersoll
6. Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has
something to do with struggling and enduring and
accomplishing. ----- George Sheehan
7. Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the
whole aim and end of human existence. ----- Aristotle
8. Happiness is not something you experience, it’s
something you remember.
----- Oscar Levant
9. Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of
traveling. ----- Margaret Lee Runbeck
10. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every
minute with love, grace and gratitude.
• What is a definition?
– A definition is the enclosing of a wilderness of
ideas within a wall of words.
– A definition is the effort to distinguish an entity
from all other things for the purpose of being
able to recognize it or in some way to
understand it.
• Definition is in fact a form of expository
• But because definition presents certain
problems of its own, it is better to treat it
“Definition” defined
• In the simplest sense, to define a word is
to show what class or group the word
belongs to and then point out the basic
features which distinguish it from other
members of the same group.
• How to define?
– The general principle: the writer may use
any method or combination of methods known
or devisable so long as he efficiently brings
his reader to understand what something is or
what a word means.
• Ways to define
– Analysis
– Synthesis
– Negation
– Exemplification
– Synonyms
• Analysis:
– This type of definition consists of placing a
word in a large class called genus and then
differentiating the word from other members
of that class.
– Tiger: a large wild animal of the cat family,
that has yellowish fur with black lines and
lives in parts of Asia.
• Synthesis
– This form of definition relates the thing-to-be-defined
to something already familiar to the reader or the
listener. It often reveals the thing-to-be-defined as
part of some larger whole.
– To define blue, other than by pointing to some blue
object, we shall have to say that blue is the color
produced by light of a wavelength .000047 cm. Or we
might define blue as the color of the sky on a
cloudless day.
• Negation
– “Sometimes the best way to say what
something is, is to say what it is not. This
technique is often preliminary to another
form of definition; we use it to eliminate
rival meanings, and that helps us isolate
the meaning we want. Or sometimes a
negative definition is as close as you can
come to a meaning; you can only say
what it is not.”
• Negation
– It defines a thing by making clear what it is
not. In connection with negative definition, we
might add that definitions sometimes carefully
distinguish the thing-to-be-defined from
something resembling it and often confused
with it.
– “革命”
• “革命”defined
– “革命不是请客吃饭,不是做文章,不是绘画绣花,不能那
– A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or
painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so
refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind,
courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an
insurrection, an act of violence by which one class
overthrows another. A rural revolution is a revolution by
which the peasantry overthrows the power of the feudal
landlord class.
• Exemplification
– Exemplification is definition by example,
which often appears as an aid to definition by
analysis or by synthesis, for one of the best
way to define something is to give one or
more examples of it.
– “A fanatic”
• Fanatic defined
– A fanatic is a person who is extremely enthusiastic about
something. For instance, I have an uncle who is fanatic about
streetcars. He loves them so much so that he drags them
almost into every conversation. If I say something about
coming home on the bus, he says, “ Now if that had been a
streetcar, you wouldn’t have had that trouble…’ and then he
goes into some long-winded account of where the streetcars
used to run and how much cheaper they were to operate. He
has a scrapbook full of old pictures he took with the
streetcars. He makes everybody who visits the house look,
even though we’ve already seen those pictures a thousand
• Synonyms
– This method has the advantage of being brief,
but unless it is accompanied by some other
method of definition, it runs the risk of
misleading the reader, for no two words mean
exactly the same thing, and, quite often,
approximations are not good enough.
– Still, this method is useful, if our purpose is
simply to clarify the meaning of a word or term
in passing.
• To define a word, a writer might explain (1)
what it is (i.e., an inanimate object, an abstract
idea, a plant or animal, an emotion, a physical
state, etc.), (2) describe it, (3) explain what it
is used for, (4) explain how it works, (5)
compare it to something that is similar but
more familiar to the average person, and / or
(6) explain what various parts of the word
• “饺子”
– Dumpling?
– Steamed stuffed dumpling?
– A piece of dough made from wheat flour and
rolled to a thin circle, then stuffed with a filling
of meat and/or vegetables, pinched, closed
and boiled or fried.?
• Extended definition
– This type refers to the definition of a concept or a
subject which may or may not begin with a dictionary
meaning. It is used to explain the meaning of abstract
concept. This type is much longer in length and less
formal. (e.g. beauty, happiness, freedom)
– Definition essay
• To explain or characterize certain concepts,
subjects, ideas, or theories to the reader
• Informative rather than persuasive
• Main features
– The concept explanation in this type of essay
must be fully focused.
– Try to make clear about what to include, what
to emphasize, and what to leave out since
you can never explain everything.
– The central idea or the thesis should be
clearly stated so that the reader can easily
identify and grasp the main point of the whole
• Features
– The organization must be logical so that the
reader will not be confused about the overall
– The sources cited in the essay should be
– Normally the sources should be from
established mediums such as books,
dictionaries, magazines other than from your
personal experiences, observations.
• The Introductory part
– Use a traditional formal definition. Try to refer
to the meaning given by a dictionary when
you define a word or a concept at the
beginning of your essay.
– Explain the origin of the word which you are
going to define;
– Use the term at the beginning of the essay to
provoke your reader’s curiosity;
– Restrict the meaning of your definition
• A Hacker originally refers to a person who chops or cuts
roughly and irregularly with a hatchet. But with the widespread application of computers to various aspects of our
life and work, it has assumed a new meaning. A Hacker
now is a computer user who is able to use or change the
information in other people’s computer systems without
their knowledge or permission. Many Hackers are very
talented people who have acquired computer knowledge
all by themselves.
• The developmental paragraphs
– As the definition essay is a combination of
almost all types of expository writing, you can
choose any type of the following patterns or a
combination of them to develop the body of
your essay.
– Exemplification
Comparison and Contrast
• It is apparently very necessary to distinguish between
parenthood and parentage. Parenthood is an art; parentage is
the consequence of a mere biological act. The biological
ability to produce, to conceive, and to give birth to a child has
nothing to do with the ability to care for that child as it
requires to be cared for. It is highly desirable that parentage
should not be undertaken until the parenthood has been
learned. Parentage is often irresponsible whereas parenthood
is responsible. Parentage at best is irresponsibly responsible
for the birth of a child while parenthood is responsible for the
development of a human being-not simply a child, but a
human being. It can thus be stated that parenthood is the most
important occupation in the world.
Cause and effect
• As might be expected, researchers have offered many
theories concerning the cause of crib death. Dr. R. C.
Reisinger, a national cancer Institute scientist, has linked
crib death to the growth of a common bacterium, E. coli, in
the intestines of newborn babies. The organisms multiply in
the intestines, manufacturing a toxin that is absorbed by the
intestinal wall and passes into the bloodstream. Breast milk
stops the growth of the organism, whereas cow’s milk
permits it. Therefore, Dr. Reisinger believes, bottle-fed
babies run a higher risk of crib death than other babies.
• Natural resources are supplies drawn from nature. They fall
into two distinct categories: renewable and mineral.
Resources derived from living matter, such as food,
clothing, and wood, are renewable resources because they
are replenished each growing season. Even if one season’s
crop is consumed, the next season brings a renewed larder (
stored food). But mineral resources such as coal, oil, atomic
energy, copper, iron, and fertilizers are not renewed each
season. They are nonrenewable resources.
• Many people think that a nurse is a smiling woman, in a
white uniform and cap, whose main job is to take
temperature for a patient and change his or her bedpan in
the hospital. However, this stereotype is not correct.
Today/s nurses are both male and female. They are
trained professionals who offer comfort and assistance to
people who are ill or who are experiencing great physical
or mental stress. They work in hospital bedrooms and in
operating room. They also help people institutions and
provide professional home care…
• The concluding part
– Summarizing the main points;
– Restating the thesis in another way;
– Advising the reader or making suggestions;
– Predicting the future
– Pointing out different features;
– Emphasizing the relationship between
cases and effects
Typical transitional device for definition essay
that is ( i.e.)
by definition
can be defined as…
What is meant is…
The meaning of… is…
The essence of the concept is…
The main/ basic features included are…
• Traps in defining
– Circular
– Too narrow
– Too broad
Remember: the commonly-used words in writing
definition are: is, mean, signify, refer to, constitute, involve,
is considered to be, is defined as, can be defined as, state
that… etc.
• Errors
– “Economics” is the study of (the) economy.
– “Economics” is a science of the production and
distribution of goods.
– An “automobile” is a means of transportation.
– An automobile is a car used as a means of
– A poem is two or more rhymed lines written to
express an idea, mood, or emotion.
– A poem is a piece of writing in verse form expressing
deep feeling or noble thought in beautiful language.
Luck refers to moments of good fortune that happen in everyday
life. Luck is putting $0.75 into a vending machine and getting the
money back with your snacks. It is a teacher’s decision to give a
retest on a test where you first scored thirty. It is not going to the
dentist for two years and then going and finding out that you do not
have any cavities. It is calling up a plumber to fix a leak on a day
when the plumber has no other work to do. Luck is finding a used car
for sale at a good price at exactly the time when your car rolls its last
mile. It is driving into a traffic bottleneck and choosing the lane that
winds up moving most rapidly. Luck is being late for work on a day
when your boss arrives later than you do. It is having a new checkout
aisle at the supermarket open up just as your cart arrives. The best
kind of luck is winning a new color TV set on a chance for which you
paid only a quarter.
Business talent
A good (or bad)
• 走后门
• 月光族
A football fan
• What is the thesis?
• How does the author develop the thesis?
Thank You!