Definition Writing Prompts TCW 4 C15

Chapter 15, “Definition”
Writing Prompts
1.​Brainstorm a list of words that describe you. Select one, research its meaning, and then write an extended definition on how and why the word describes you. Include anecdotes that clarify and illustrate your claims.
2.​Research your first and last names, including their histories, uses in literature, and possible denotative and connotative meanings. Then write extended definitions of your names and share your writing with the class.
3.​Identify two or three words that you believe are used incorrectly, carelessly, or hurtfully. Select one of the words, research it, and write an essay in which you define the word clearly, describe how it is misused, and explain why it should be used correctly.
4.​Select a word that is acceptable when used in one community or culture but is problematic or unacceptable when used in another community or culture. Research the word’s history and meaning in each setting and then write an essay in which you describe this phenomenon. Share your writing with the class.

Definition Writing – Purdue OWL

Writing Definitions

A formal definition is based upon a concise, logical pattern that
includes as much information as it can within a minimum amount of space.
The primary reason to include definitions in your writing is to avoid
misunderstanding with your audience. A formal definition consists of
three parts.

  1. The term (word or phrase) to be defined
  2. The class of object or concept to which the term belongs.
  3. The differentiating characteristics that distinguish it from all others of its class

For example:

  • Water (term) is a liquid (class) made up of molecules of hydrogen and oxygen in the ratio of 2 to 1 (differentiating characteristics).
  • Comic books (term) are sequential and narrative publications (class) consisting of illustrations, captions, dialogue balloons, and often focus on super-powered heroes (differentiating characteristics).
  • Astronomy (term) is a branch of scientific study (class) primarily concerned with celestial objects inside and outside of the earth’s atmosphere (differentiating characteristics).

Although these examples should illustrate the manner in which the
three parts work together, they are not the most realistic cases. Most
readers will already be quite familiar with the concepts of water, comic
books, and astronomy. For this reason, it is important to know when
and why you should include definitions in your writing.

When to Use Definitions

  • When your writing contains a term that may be key to audience understanding and that term could likely be unfamiliar to them

    “Stellar Wobble is a measurable variation of speed wherein a
    star’s velocity is shifted by the gravitational pull of a foreign

  • When a commonly used word or phrase has layers of subjectivity or evaluation in the way you choose to define it

    “Throughout this essay, the term classic gaming will refer
    specifically to playing video games produced for the Atari, the original
    Nintendo Entertainment System, and any systems in-between.”
    Note: not everyone may define “classic gaming”within this same time span; therefore, it is important to define your terms

  • When the etymology (origin and history) of a common word might prove interesting or will help expand upon a point

    “Pagan can be traced back to Roman military slang for an
    incompetent soldier. In this sense, Christians who consider themselves
    soldiers of Christ are using the term not only to suggest a person’s
    secular status but also their lack of bravery.’

Additional Tips for Writing Definitions

  • Avoid defining with “X is when” and “X is where” statements. These
    introductory adverb phrases should be avoided. Define a noun with a
    noun, a verb with a verb, and so forth.
  • Do not define a word by mere repetition or merely restating the word.

    “Rhyming poetry consists of lines that contain end rhymes.”


    “Rhyming poetry is an artform consisting of lines whose final words
    consistantly contain identical, final stressed vowel sounds.”

  • Define a word in simple and familiar terms. Your definition of an
    unfamiliar word should not lead your audience towards looking up more
    words in order to understand your definition.
  • Keep the class portion of your definition small but adequate. It
    should be large enough to include all members of the term you are
    defining but no larger. Avoid adding personal details to definitions.
    Although you may think the story about your Grandfather will perfectly
    encapsulate the concept of stinginess, your audience may fail to relate.
    Offering personal definitions may only incr

Contributors:Mark Pepper, Dana Lynn Driscoll
Purdue Online Writing Lab

Definitions: Quad Poem (by a former LU instructor)

I participated in a
poetry festival at Lincoln University, then in San Francisco. At this
conference, Dr. Kenneth Fan called for poems of a new form: “Hsin Ku”, or “New
Classic”. Its form and rules are summarized by these two hsinku I wrote:
New classic poem form;
four words, four lines
Any topic, any image
Second, fourth near rhymes.
“Let Reason rule Rhyme,”
Decreed the sage Master,
“So our audience be
(I hope) much vaster.”
I admit that I couldn’t resist some sardonicism there. I hope much vaster!
Here are some more:
A single look reveals:
Airplane left, bird right
Climbing, crossing; silent passage
In the evening light.
Me, praise a pearl?
Or its owner, ma’am?
Or its inner grit?
I praise the clam!
O love, we wonder;
Through you, I’m wise;
How deeper we see
Than only two eyes!
Dear love, what song
What best true rhyme
Will show for long
This love through time?
Science, myth and fantasy
Future joy and sorrow;
Dreamer, come enchant me
With life beyond tomorrow.
“What is true reality?
Computer, say the word!”
It answered with finality,
“Your question is absurd.”
Why read science fantasy
Mostly thud and blunder?
I seek marvels, mystery,
Vision, sense of wonder.
Mr. Fan wanted these poems in honor of an ancient Chinese king
who prayed for world peace. Alas, I could not resist delivering the following
“May all war cease,”
The high lord sings;
But when there’s peace
Then who needs kings?
Posted by Paradoctor at 7:23 AM 

Definition Essay: The Meaning of Home, by John Berger

The Meaning of Home, by John Berger
John Berger
A highly regarded art critic, novelist, poet, essayist, and
screenwriter, John Berger began his career as a painter in London. Among his
best known works are Ways of Seeing (1972), a series of essays about the power
of visual images, and G. (also 1972), an experimental novel which was awarded
both the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.
In this passage from And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as
Photos (1984), Berger draws on the writings of Mircea Eliade, a Romanian-born
historian of religion, to offer an extended definition of home.
The term home (Old Norse Heimer, High German heim, Greek
komi, meaning “village”) has, since a long time, been taken over by
two kinds of moralists, both dear to those who wield power. The notion of home
became the keystone for a code of domestic morality, safeguarding the property
(which included the women) of the family. Simultaneously the notion of homeland
supplied a first article of faith for patriotism, persuading men to die in wars
which often served no other interest except that of a minority of their ruling
class. Both usages have hidden the original meaning.
Originally home meant the center of the world–not in a
geographical, but in an ontological sense. Mircea Eliade has demonstrated how
home was the place from which the world could be founded. A home was
established, as he says, “at the heart of the real.” In traditional
societies, everything that made sense of the world was real; the surrounding
chaos existed and was threatening, but it was threatening because it was
unreal. Without a home at the center of the real, one was not only shelterless,
but also lost in nonbeing, in unreality. Without a home everything was

Home was the center of the world because it was the place
where a vertical line crossed with a horizontal one. The vertical line was a
path leading upwards to the sky and downwards to the underworld. The horizontal
line represented the traffic of the world, all the possible roads leading
across the earth to other places. Thus, at home, one was nearest to the gods in
the sky and to the dead of the underworld. This nearness promised access to
both. And at the same time, one was at the starting point and, hopefully, the
returning point of all terrestrial journeys.