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extended definition



In a paragraph or essay, an explanation and/or illustration of a word, thing, or concept.

See also:


From the Latin, "boundary"

Examples of Extended Definitions:


  • "An extended definition may explain the word's etymology or historical roots, describe sensory characteristics of something (how it looks, feels, sounds, tastes, smells), identify its parts, indicate how something is used, explain what it is not, provide an example of it, and/or note similarities or differences between this term and other words or things."
    (Stephen Reid, The Prentice Hall Guide for College Writers, 2003)

  • Introduction to an Extended Definition: Family
    "We are all aware that 'family' is a word which eludes definition, as do other important things, like nation, race, culture, gender, species; like art, science, virtue, vice, beauty, truth, justice, happiness, religion; like success; like intelligence. The attempt to impose definition on indeterminacy and degree and exception is about the straightest road to mischief I know of, very deeply worn, very well traveled to this day. But just for the purposes of this discussion, let us say: one’s family are those toward whom one feels loyalty and obligation, and/or from whom one derives identity, and/or to whom one gives identity, and/or with whom one shares habits, tastes, stories, customs, memories. This definition allows for families of circumstance and affinity as well as kinship, and it allows also for the existence of people who are incapable of family, though they may have parents and siblings and spouses and children."
    (Marilynn Robinson, "Family." The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought. Houghton Mifflin, 1998)

  • An Extended Definition of Damned
    "You're all damned! Damned! Do you ever stop to think what that word means? No, you don't. It means endless, horrifying torment! It means your poor, sinful bodies stretched out on red-hot gridirons in the nethermost, fiery pit of hell, and those demons mocking ye while they wave cooling jellies in front of ye. You know what it's like when you burn your hand, taking a cake out of the oven, or lighting one of them godless cigarettes? And it stings with a fearful pain, aye? And you run to clap a bit of butter on it to take the pain away, aye? Well, I'll tell ye: there'll be no butter in hell!"
    (Ian McKellen as Amos Starkadder in Cold Comfort Farm, 1995)

  • Composing an Extended Definition of Democracy
    "Sometimes, . . . particularly when we are thinking seriously about a complicated concept, such as democracy, we use a definition as the basis for an entire theme; that is, we write what may be called an extended definition.

    "The basic problem with a word such as democracy is that no commonly available short definition is sufficient to give us an understanding of the full implications of the word. For such understanding we would have to go into the history lying behind the word and into the complex systems of ideas involved in it. For instance, as a basis for understanding the word democracy, we might find ourselves not only referring to the origin of the word in Ancient Greek, but also using the history of Athens, even including the techniques and crafts that preceded the rise of popular government. Or we might find ourselves using the techniques of Christianity, with its idea of the worth of the individual human soul, in relation to the democratic impulses in subsequent history. We would have to feel our way along, trying out different ideas to see where they lead us, discarding some and trying again. We can use whatever will help us, including other forms of exposition or other modes of discourse--description, narration, or argument."
    (Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, Modern Rhetoric, 3rd ed. Harcourt, 1972)

  • Purposes of an Extended Definition
    "More often than not, an extended definition informs. Sometimes you inform by clarifying something that is complex. . . . A definition can also inform by bringing the reader to a fresh appreciation of something familiar or taken for granted. . . .

    "In addition to informing, an extended definition can allow you to express feelings and relate experience. For example, you could define teenager by explaining what your teenage years were like and in this way relate part of your experience with adolescence. . . .

    "A definition can also entertain, as when you write a humorous definition of freshman, to amuse your reader. . . .

    "Finally, an extended definition can serve a persuasive purpose. This is particularly true when the definition points to a conclusion about a controversial issue. . . .

    "Many times, you will incorporate formal definition with other patterns of development. For example, a history paper might require you to define the chivalric code and then go on to explain its effects."
    (Barbara Fine Clouse, Patterns for a Purpose. McGraw-Hill, 2003)
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