Dive into the realm of English rhetoric with this comprehensive guide exploring the purpose, use, and techniques of crafting definitions. This resource provides a practical insight into understanding the role played by definition within rhetorical elements, presenting real-life examples and illustrating proven methods for integrating definitions into essays. The guide also delivers step-by-step instructions for writing a proper definition and helps you discover a variety of definition techniques, assisting in the selection of the most suitable one for your essay.

Get started Sign up for free
Definition Definition

Create learning materials about Definition with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account

Millions of flashcards designed to help you ace your studies

Sign up for free

Convert documents into flashcards for free with AI!

Table of contents

    Understanding the Definition in English Rhetoric

    Understanding the usage of the definition in English rhetoric is essential for mastering the language. Let's delve more into this.

    A definition, in English rhetoric, is explaining the meaning of a term or concept. It’s a common rhetorical mode that allows for clarity, description, and detail to enhance understanding.

    For example, if a speaker uses the term 'global warming', they may provide a definition for clarity, such as "a long-term increase in the planet's average temperature due to human activity".

    What is the Purpose of a Definition in Rhetoric?

    In rhetorical contexts, definitions are used for a variety of reasons—they clarify meanings; improve understanding; help make connections with ideas, beliefs, and values; and often involve interpretation and argument.

    Clarify meanings Improve understanding
    Make connections Involve interpretation and argument

    Skilled speakers and writers leverage definitions as persuasive strategies––they may define their terms to control interpretation or employ strategically vague definitions to appeal to a wider audience.

    Relations between Definition and Other Rhetoric Elements

    Definition doesn't stand alone as a rhetorical tool; it often interacts with other elements of rhetoric.

    • With persuasion: Often, speakers redefine terms to argue their point.
    • With reasoning: Definitions help to categorize and classify information, which is vital for logical reasoning.
    • With context: The context of a conversation may affect the intended definition of a term or concept.
    LaTeX helps illustrate these interconnections. For example, the relation between definition and persuasion can be depicted as: \[ \text{{Definition}} \leftrightarrow \text{{Persuasion}} \]

    An example might be a politician redefining 'freedom' to align with their party's beliefs and to appeal to their target audience.

    The interaction of definition with other rhetorical elements sheds light on its complexity and richness as a rhetorical mode.

    Examples of Definitions in English Rhetoric

    Definitions play a pivotal role in English rhetoric. They influence how audiences understand, interpret, and respond to information. Let's explore some examples of how definition is used in varied contexts, from real-world scenarios to literature.

    Real-life Examples of Definition Usage

    In real-life scenarios, definitions are frequently used in speeches, discussions, negotiations, and disputes. They are critical for avoiding ambiguity and ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

    For instance, in legal jargon, terms like 'reasonable doubt' or 'preponderance of the evidence' are defined explicitly to prevent misinterpretation.

    In a science class, key terms associated with complex concepts are often defined. For example, the term '\(E=mc^2\)', Einstein's famous formula, would be defined as "energy equals mass times the speed of light squared".

    In business negotiations, one party might define 'fair' in terms of equality, while the other might interpret 'fair' as proportional to invested effort. One party might then redefine 'fair' to bridge these different interpretations.

    For example, a company representative could redefine 'fair' as "a compromise that takes into account both the need for equality and the value of invested effort and resources".

    Effective Definition Examples in Literature

    In literature, definitions can become a powerful tool to convey meaning, capture attention, and encourage thought.

    For instance, in George Orwell's novel, "1984," the term 'Doublethink' is defined as "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them". This novel definition reveals insights into the dystopian society Orwell envisioned.

    In her novel "Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen redefines the concept of 'gentleman' by contrasting the charming yet deceitful Mr. Wickham with the initially haughty but ultimately respectable Mr. Darcy.

    Austen redefines 'gentleman' beyond its conventional meaning associated with manners and status, suggesting that true gentility also involves integrity and respect for others.

    Lastly, in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," the iconic definition of Romeo as "the sun" by Juliet extends beyond mere metaphor, encapsulating the depth of her affections for him, and her despair at their star-crossed fate.

    These examples illustrate that skilled use of definition can both clarify and deepen meaning, enhancing the impact of rhetoric in diverse contexts.

    Methods of Using Definition in an Essay

    Knowing how to effectively incorporate a definition in an essay can greatly enhance your writing. Definitions can clarify concepts, provide context, and enhance reader comprehension.

    How to Integrate Definitions in Your Essay

    Integrating definitions into your essay requires careful precision and strategic placement. The definition needs to serve a clear purpose—whether to provide clarification, offer context, or introduce a key term or concept. Here are steps you can carry out to integrate definitions in your essay effectively:

    • Determine the need for a definition: Does the term need clarification? Is it a specific term related to your field of study or topic?
    • Choose where to place the definition: At the beginning of your essay, within the main body, or in the conclusion, depending on the term's relevance and importance.
    • Decide on the type of definition: A formal definition may be appropriate, or a definition by example, by synonym, or by negation.
    • Use the definition effectively: Ensure the definition supports your argument or discussion.

    In formal writing, a formal definition often begins with a term and a standard dictionary definition, followed by more detailed information for complex terms. On the other hand, an informal definition expresses the writer's view on the term.

    For example, if you were writing an essay on blockchain technology, you might say: 'Blockchain, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is 'a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly.' This essentially forms the backbone of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, providing transparency and security in transactional procedures.'

    Top Techniques for Incorporating Definitions

    Incorporating definitions into your essay becomes much easier once you know various techniques suited for different contexts.

    An extended definition, for instance, goes beyond a single sentence to fully explain a complex term or concept. It may compare the term to others, describe specifics, use examples, and provide contexts.

    If you were to provide an extended definition of 'democracy,' you might write: '[…] Democracy is a form of government where power essentially belongs to the citizens, who elect representatives or directly make decisions. Unlike autocratic rule, where power is concentrated in one individual's hands, democracy thrives on the principle of equality and the presumption that all citizens should have equal political rights and opportunities.'

    Another technique is to use a definition by negation. This method contrasts what a term is not with what it is, providing clarity by highlighting opposites. For example, a definition of justice by negation might be: 'Justice does not mean merely following set laws and regulations, but it represents the principle of fairness that upholds the moral and legal rights of all individuals. It is not a term confined to legal fields but permeates social, economic, and political realms.' By using these techniques and understanding how to incorporate definitions into your essay, your writing can become more precise, informative, and compelling. This not only elevates the quality of your essay but also enhances reader understanding and engagement.

    Guide to Writing a Proper Definition

    Effective communication in English depends heavily on the precise and accurate use of definitions. Whether it's in a scholarly paper or a public speech, setting forth a clear definition of your key terms can make your arguments more persuasive and your points more clear.

    What is the Correct Way to Write a Definition in Rhetoric?

    When you're preparing to write a definition in rhetoric, it's paramount to remember two guiding principles: clarity and relevance. Your definition should be clear, concise, and directly related to your intended message.

    Fundamentally, a definition in rhetoric is presented as a clear statement of what a word or term means. This can be a single sentence or it could be a more elaborate explanation that provides context and examples.

    Here are some key steps to follow when writing a definition in rhetoric:

    • Identify the term: Clearly state the term you're defining
    • Classify the term: Identify the class or group to which the term belongs
    • Differentiate the term: Show how the term differs from other members in its class
    • Illustrate the term: Use examples to further clarify the meaning

    Let's consider the term 'democracy'. You might classify it as a form of government, differentiate it by stating that it's a system where power is vested in the people who rule either directly or through elected representatives, and illustrate with examples of democratic nations like the UK or the US.

    Remember, the aim is to ensure the term is understood in the way you intend. This can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your rhetoric.

    In Aristotle's "Rhetoric," he writes about three different types of rhetorical appeals: logos, ethos, and pathos. Strategic use of definitions often falls under logos, which is the appeal to logic. By providing clear definitions, you can build more logical and rational arguments.

    Essential Steps to Write an Effective Definition

    To write a definition that effectively serves your rhetorical purpose, follow these essential steps:

    • Understand the Purpose: Why are you providing this definition? Is it to educate, to clarify, to contrast, or to challenge a common understanding?
    • Select the Term: Choose a term that is crucial to your message and that you think might be misunderstood or interpreted in multiple ways.
    • Research the Term: Use reputable sources to learn all you can about the term you are defining. Understand its origins, its contexts, and how it’s used in your field of study.
    • Keep the Context in Mind: The definition should fit within the larger context of your essay or speech. Remember to connect it to your main idea, using it to strengthen your argument.

    A lexical definition is the one that you'll find in a dictionary—it provides a basic, generally accepted meaning of a term. It's a good starting point, but for your definition to be effective in rhetoric, it usually needs to go beyond this.

    Let's consider the term 'freedom'. A lexical definition from the Oxford English Dictionary is "The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants." If you're giving a speech on press freedom, you might expand this to "the unhindered right of journalists and news outlets to investigate, publish, and broadcast without undue restriction or interference."

    Always remember, a carefully crafted definition can illuminate your ideas, guide your readers, and strengthen your arguments. So, take the time to craft precise and contextual definitions that contribute meaningfully to your rhetoric.

    Exploring Different Definition Techniques

    There are several ways to craft a compelling definition in English rhetoric. Depending on the context and the nature of the term, you might choose to use various definition techniques. Let's delve deeper into these methods.

    Most Common Definition Techniques in English Rhetoric

    In English rhetoric, the most common definition techniques are formal, informal, extended, and operational definitions. Each of these techniques serves a specific purpose and is used in different contexts. Understanding these techniques can refine your use of definitions significantly.

    A formal definition includes the class to which the term belongs and how it can be differentiated within that class. It typically follows the 'A is B' structure, where 'A' is the term to be defined, and 'B' is the classifier that puts the term into context.

    In comparison:

    Informal definitions are more conversational and less structured, casually clarifying a term within the context it's being used. They don't follow a strict format and make use of examples, comparisons, or descriptions.


    An extended definition is a detailed explanation used for complex or abstract terms, providing context, examples, and even illustrating what the term is not.


    Operational definitions explain how something works or what it does, rather than what it is. They're often used in technical or scientific contexts.

    Consider the term 'Oxidation.' A formal definition might read, 'Oxidation is a chemical reaction that involves the moving of electrons.' An informal definition could be, 'Oxidation is when something loses electrons.' An extended definition could go into depth describing specific oxidation reactions, and an operational definition might define oxidation as 'the process that causes iron to rust.'

    Choosing the Right Definition Technique for Your Essay

    Selecting the appropriate definition technique for an essay relies on a variety of factors: the term itself, the audience, the purpose of the essay, and the context in which the term is being used.

    Here are some guidelines to help you make the right choice:

    • Understand your audience: If your readers are unfamiliar with the term, you may want to use an extended or operational definition. If they're well-acquainted with it, an informal definition might suffice.
    • Consider the complexity of the term: Simple terms may not require extensive definitions, while complex or abstract terms may necessitate an extended definition.
    • Reflect on the purpose of the essay: Is it to inform, persuade, or explain? Different purposes require different types of definitions.

    Suppose you're writing an essay on 'Artificial Intelligence'. If your audience is computer science students, an informal or operational definition might work best. But if your audience is general readers with little background in technology, an extended definition could be more effective.

    Remember, the objective is to enhance clarity and understanding for your readers, so choose the method that best serves this purpose. By considering your audience, the term, and the context, you can choose the most suitable definition technique for your essay.

    Definition - Key takeaways

    • Definitions serve multiple purposes, such as improving understanding, making connections, and involving interpretation and argument.
    • Definition interacts with other rhetorical elements like persuasion, reasoning, and context.
    • Examples of definition usage extend to various scenarios like legal jargon, business negotiations, and literature.
    • Effectively incorporating definitions in an essay requires clear purpose, strategic placement, choosing the type of definition, and its effective use.
    • In rhetoric, the correct way to write a definition involves clarity, direct relation to the intended message, and follow a set of steps like identifying the term, classifying it, differentiating it, and illustrating it through examples.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Definition
    What is the definition of a homonym in English language?
    A homonym in English language is a word that is spelt and pronounced the same as another but has a different meaning. For instance, 'bark' (the sound a dog makes) and 'bark' (the outer layer of a tree).
    What is the definition of an idiom in the English language?
    An idiom in the English language is a phrase or expression that has a figurative or sometimes literal, meaning that differs from the individual words that make it up. These are cultural expressions unique to each language.
    What is the definition of a synonym in the English language?
    A synonym in the English language is a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language.
    What is the definition of an antonym in the English language?
    An antonym in the English language is a word that has the opposite meaning of another word. For example, 'hot' and 'cold' are antonyms.
    What is the definition of a metaphor in the English language?
    A metaphor in the English language is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another, implying a similarity or analogy between the two, without using 'like' or 'as'.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    True or false: A definition can be influenced by a person's life experiences?

    Context of a definition could include purpose, importance, and ___________.

    Which strategy of definition uses lists to define the attributes of something?


    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team English Teachers

    • 14 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App
    Sign up with Email

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner