Difference between Meaning and Definition

Key difference: The term definition states the critical and analytical aspects of any word, whereas meaning is what can be inferred from the word. A word may have one definition, whereas it may have a hundred meanings, different to each person.


The terms, meaning and definition, often pop up when discussing words. While many believe them to be synonymous, and they are for the most part, they actually also differ from each other.

Let us look at the definition of “definition”. Dictionary.com defines “definition”, as:

  • The act of making definite, distinct, or clear; a defining: We need a better definition of her responsibilities.
  • The formal statement of the meaning or significance of a word, phrase, idiom, etc., as found in dictionaries. An online dictionary resource, such as Dictionary.com, can give users direct, immediate access to the definitions of a term, allowing them to compare definitions from various dictionaries and stay up to date with an ever-expanding vocabulary.

Whereas, “meaning” is defined as:

  • What is intended to be, or actually is, expressed or indicated; signification; import: the three meanings of a word.
  • The end, purpose, or significance of something: What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of this intrusion?
  • The nonlinguistic cultural correlate, reference, or denotation of a linguistic form; expression.
  • Linguistic content (opposed to expression).

Now that the definition of the terms is pretty straightforward, let’s look at the meanings. The term definition states the critical and analytical aspects of any word, whereas meaning is what can be inferred from the word. A word may have one definition, whereas it may have a hundred meanings, different to each person.

Let’s look at an example:

The definition of the term ‘o.k.’ states that it is used to express things that are “all right; proceeding normally; satisfactory; under control; or correct.” Whereas the meaning of ‘o.k.’ in a sentence can refer to many things, as depending on what the person meant to say and what the other person understood. The speaker may be irritated or angry or just plain bored, hence he may be using ‘o.k.’ to end an argument, to imply agreement, or may in fact mean nothing by it at all.

Furthermore, the meaning of a word in slang or general usage can differ explicitly from its definition. The definition of a term can be outdated or not in context to the current usage. For example, the terms “nerd”, “geek”, etc. The definition of these terms are derogatory, however today the terms are often used between friends without any negative connotations. In fact, one even proudly refers to oneself as a “nerd”, or a “geek”. Hence, the meanings of the terms have changed. This will eventually require the definition of the terms to be changed in order to comply with the modern meaning. However, in the future, the meanings may change again, and the cycle will continue.

Comparison between Meaning and Definition:

 

Meaning

Definition

Definition

Meaning is what the term expresses, communicates, or conveys.

A statement that explains the meaning of a term (a word, phrase, or other set of symbols)

Scope

Unlimited. One word can have difference meaning.

Limited, the actual definition is straightforward and the same to everyone.

Emphasis

Emotional

Analytical

Structure

Flexible. The same thing can mean something different to another.

Rigid. The definition is strict and unwavering.

Image Courtesy: semrush.com, nomensa.com

Most Searched in Electronics Most Searched in Computers and Internets
Most Searched in Business and Finance Most Searched in Food and Drink
LG Optimus G Pro vs iPhone 5
Ajax vs JavaScript
City vs District
Castor Oil vs Coconut Oil

Comments

Thank you for sharing this.

Add new comment

Plain text

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.