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Module C ButtonTopic C4: Three Kinds of Definitions

What are the three kinds of definitions?

A term can be defined three different ways depending upon its intended use. A definition can have three kinds of users: everyone, technical and scientific. 

What is the intended use of the term determines how a term should be defined. This can be illustrated by the term "yellow."

Since a ripe lemon is the color yellow, yellow can be defined as the color of a ripe lemon. As long as a student knows what a ripe lemon looks like, he or she will know what is the color yellow.

Yellow is a color that resembles a ripe lemon.

What takes place when yellow is defined as the color of a ripe lemon is making the connection between the term yellow and the color of a ripe lemon. This connection is comparing a color to the color of a ripe lemon.

However, this definition would probably not be useful to a painter, designer, or photographer because ripe lemons' color can vary. There could be a debate as to when or which is a yellow lemon. These people would need a professional definition.


A painter, designer or photographer would need a professional definition of yellow because they are going to use this definition when shading objects and pictures.  A definition of a spectrum and the order of the color bands dispersed through it must be known to those who use color in their profession.

Yellow is the portion of the spectrum between green and orange.

However, this definition would not be useful to a scientist because a scientist wants a definition that can be exactly measured. A scientist would want a scientific definition.


A scientist requires a definition that would permit him or her to determine exactly when something is yellow. This definition would never be open to interpretation of when something's color is yellow.

Yellow is radiant energy with a wavelength of 580 nanometers.

When defining yellow as radiant energy with a wavelength of 580 nanometers, this definition does not permit the average person to identify something as yellow. Also, this definition does not help the artist understand the different shades of colors. However, this definition permits a scientist to accurately identify something's color as yellow.


Teaching Suggestions

Determine what kind of definition is required to learn and apply the information presented in your course.


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