Defining a word: can the word appear in the definition?

Subject: Defining a word: can the word appear in the definition?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2001 13:50:16 -0500

Michele Davis wonders <<When you define a word, can you use the word in the
definition, or not?>>

So long as understanding the definition doesn't require that the reader
first understand the word, there's no absolute reason not to repeat the word
in the definition. For example, "pollute: the act of polluting" is useless
to the reader, since they can't understand the definition without
understanding the root word (pollute); conversely, saying something like
"pollute: when one pollutes, one fouls the environment", is acceptable,
though it's not a shining example of a definition and it's wordier than
necessary ("to foul the environment" would be a better definition).

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at
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"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that
English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words;
on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them
unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."-- James D. Nicoll

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