The term “definition” comes from the Latin word “definitio,” which means “a setting of boundaries” or “a stating of limits.” This is derived from the Latin roots “de-” meaning “from” or “down to,” and “finire,” meaning “to limit” or “to end.”

1. Proto-Indo-European (PIE)

The PIE root “*de-” means “from” or “away.”

2. Latin

From the PIE root, the Latin word “definitio” developed, meaning “a setting of boundaries” or “a stating of limits.” The verb “definire” combines “de-” (from) and “finire” (to limit), meaning “to limit” or “to determine.”

3. Old French (c. 9th to 14th century CE)

The Latin term “definitio” evolved into Old French “definir,” meaning “to determine” or “to explain.”

4. Middle English (c. 11th to 15th century CE)

The Old French “definir” was adopted into Middle English as “definen,” meaning “to determine” or “to explain.”

5. Modern English (from 15th century CE to present)

The term “definition” evolved into its current form and pronunciation, retaining the meaning of “a statement of the exact meaning of a word or the nature or scope of something.”

Phonetic Evolution

Over time, the pronunciation of “definition” changed to its current form.

Usage Examples

  • “A clear definition of terms is essential for effective communication.”
  • “Another example of ‘definition’ in a sentence is ‘The dictionary provides definitions for all words.'”

Cultural or Historical Notes

The development of the word “definition” was significantly influenced by the rise of lexicography and the need for precise language during the Enlightenment period, which contributed to its current meaning and usage.

The word “definition” reflects the act of setting boundaries or explaining precisely, emphasizing the importance of clarity and precision in human cognition and communication.