User:Msh210/specificity

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Carmine, noun, has its definition listed as "A purplish-red colour." This raises the issue of specifying in the definition that the term refers to a specific type of foo or, on the other hand, to a foo in general. For example, carmine is not, by definition, a purplish red color. It is, rather, a specific purplish red color. There are other purplish reds. So when writing definitions we need to be careful and say what we mean.

As another example polo is currently defined as "A ball game where two teams of players on horseback use long-handled mallets to propel the ball along the ground and into their oponents [sic] goal." Polo is the ball game in which two teams of players on horseback use long-handled mallets to propel the ball along the ground and into their opponents' goals. It's not just some particular ball game in which two teams of players on horseback use long-handled mallets to propel the ball along the ground and into their opponents' goals. That is, there aren't many ball games where two teams, etc., of which polo is an example. Now, polo could instead have been defined as "A ball game for two teams" but then it would need to be defined as "A specific ball game for two teams" or some such, as it's not by defnition a ball game for two teams.

So for many terms, one can write a specific definition like "A ball game in which two teams of players on horseback use long-handled mallets to propel the ball along the ground and into their opponents' goals" or a general one like "A ball game" or "A purplish red color". But if he writes a general one, he must include a specifying adjective as in "A specific ball game" or "A particular purplish red color".

As another example, someone may write "A hat" as the definition of either chapeau or fedora. But a chapeau is a hat whereas a fedora is a particular hat, so while "A hat" is a good definition for chapeau, fedora should have it instead with a specifying adjective: "A kind of hat".