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I have seen several times lately, where people are discussing some topic and they have a disagreement about what a word means, then one party ends the discussion with something along the lines of "well that is my definition of it". I am not talking about a discussion around agnosticism/atheism, the most recent was a discussion about homeopathy.

Since when do we have personal definitions of words that are well defined in common dictionaries and reference sources?

I see no value in attempting to have a discussion with someone who uses their own personal definitions of words that differ from the definitions generally accepted by everyone else.

Your opinion?

icolan 7 July 12

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a little humour:

Lukian Level 8 July 13, 2018

when I see a discussion going nowhere I revert to asking stupid questions like define xyz, or did you mean this or that. Many get frustrated somehow by being asked clarification questions... urgh.

Lukian Level 8 July 13, 2018

Definition for 'xyz': X Yes Zepelin. πŸ™‚ Which ended up being 'The Firm'.

@xyz123 nice trivia!

@Lukian To be serious: many groups of people interpret meanings that you or I would disagree with, because they are not an accepted definition of that word or phrase (for words, I go the dictionary, phrases usually some authority group -- global warming vs. climate change). Many religious folk say words to the effect "you must have faith". My response is "in what?" I have faith that the person driving 60 mph paralleling me less than 5 feet away won't serve and hit me, or my family and friends. Some faith is negative and some positive -- I think gods are negative.


Im down with everything in the dictionary except where β€œliterally” now has a secondary definition of β€œfiguratively” because so many people use it wrong. I will literally die on this hill.


I wholeheartedly agree! However as an interesting (side note) addition to the valid point that you made, I must mention to you the great love I have for the English language including the history behind its derivatives... I so love the language that I years ago bought a copy of Noah Websters 1828 dictionary. One of the fun things that I discovered was that some words that I used in my communications had morphed into our so called "modern" usage, and were no longer accurate by definition when applied as such! I was astounded by the many alterations that have occurred...what I have previously stated does not necessarily lend credence to incorrect usage, however some (as rare as the case may be) perhaps have an insight...

I have always had a fascination in the origins of our languages colloquialisms. Like" the whole nine yards" which came from ww2 era fighters that held 9 yrds. Of machine gun bullets when fully loaded.
Or a "shot of wiskey" which came about when in the early days of the West a bullet was traded as money. This probably concerns the "shot glass" as well..
Also there is a group on this site about words.


Kind of like "alternative facts." Now it's alternative definitions.

I agree with you.


Yea I hear "My definition of definition is different to you definition of definition, in my opinion" ???


Dictionaries imperfectly define current popular usage, not always what someone means in a specific context. There's nothing either sacred nor infallible about them.

For example for a long time (and still occasionally today), the dictionary definition of "atheist" reflected theist usage and misconceptions. It's entirely appropriate for me to say what atheism means to me and how I use the word, regardless of what the dictionary claims. As enough people have used the word in a philosophically clear and correct way, dictionaries have begun to reflect that.

In other situations there are multiple meanings that someone wrongly conflates in debate. A very common theist gambit for example is to try to elevate the failed epistemology of religious faith by conflating it with the more colloquial definition of faith which is basically just trust or expectation according to experience, when they are two very different and in some ways opposite things. In this case the dictionary is generally clear and correct but the user twists it to their own ends.

The first step in any debate is to define the terms used and agree on their meaning. Otherwise you're just talking past each other. While it's generally a good idea to agree on generally recognized meanings, sometimes it's better not to. One can accept a debater's definition for the sake of debate, because it's more fruitful to bypass that particular argument and say "even accepting your definition, you would be wrong because X".


English is a living language. Definitions are changed or added to all the time. As for personal quirks I differentiate between a film and a movie. In my view something like "On the waterfront" is a film and "Independence day" is a movie. I am not totally alone in this way of speaking but it has as yet not made it to the OED.


In Spanish-speaking countries people sometimes refer to a dictionary as a "tumba burros." This roughly translates as "knocks over donkeys." ?


I subscribe to the following theory of truth which can be found in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I have provided an extract as well as a link to the source.

1.1.2 The neo-classical correspondence theory
The correspondence theory of truth is at its core an ontological thesis: a belief is true if there exists an appropriate entity – a fact – to which it corresponds. If there is no such entity, the belief is false.

Facts, for the neo-classical correspondence theory, are entities in their own right. Facts are generally taken to be composed of particulars and properties and relations or universals, at least. The neo-classical correspondence theory thus only makes sense within the setting of a metaphysics that includes such facts.


If there is a disagreement about a word then there should be an honest attempt to present the facts regarding the origin of their evidence. If one debater is found to hold just an opinion then they have failed the test of corresponding truth with a fact.


The definition of words change over time. It's annoying as hell and a good way to help ensure division. Pick any so-called dirty, it doesn't matter to me. At least one of the definitions always described me quite well when I considered the perspectives of others. But when you consider the opinions of willfully ignorant people, logic might lead you to find everyone to be ...

mt49er Level 7 July 13, 2018

I don't see the need to discuss anything with anyone. It's their silly opinion and I couldn't care less. My reaction would be to murmur "Um-hum," then glance at my watch and hurry away.


This reminds me of how schizophrenic people are prone to coining neologisms.


That also depends on said person's linguistic capabilities. Said person might be coming from a historical linguistic perception of the cognate. Words change and evolve with the social consciousness, not so much in the academic jargon.

The English lexicon has three levels of cognizance.

  1. Legalese ~ legal language is the highest form of cognition.

  2. Academia ~ academic language, or the proper use of word knowledge, philosophical rhetoric, and scientific dialect

  3. Common ~ (often refered to as slang), the common or simplistic use of a language vernacular. Simply put is the simplistic use of a language for the lower less educated classes of a soceity.

I agree with you. But new words can be formed/coined. Defintions can and do change, especially when dealing with the etymology of a term and its cognates. Just because something is socially accepted does not make it correct. Civilizations are ruled by misconception and the propagation of ignorance.

Most people have 0% knowledge of what we are speaking about.

Let me show you~

Define Government.

Etre Level 7 July 12, 2018


I see both ends. Most people in the commons do not know a dr. can follow a natural path ie. natural pathic doctors. They tend to associate homeopath with natural path. I also made this distinction in the begining of becoming a vegeterian and living a natural pathic life. It was latter in my years that i discover the creation and meaning of the term homeopath.

In defense of the argument, i must say several whole food type places and herb shops also spread the misconception in the social consciousness. But do they really??

You are 100% correct in your argument. But allow me weigh the scales just a bit. The term homeopath has a defined meaning that dates to the 19th century. Penicillian has not been created yet. All medicines prior to 1928 were herbalistic. Most people lived to far away from towns and doctors. People mostly had their own remedies passed down or lent through colloquialism.

Even today people used herbs, roots, and diet to heal themselves. So lets look at the term homeopathy/homeopathic/homeopath ~
Social Consciousness sways from bottom up. The higher conscious beings on top are always pulling the lower conscious beings, sometimes dragging.... the uneducated mind sees homeopath and infers a definition from their cognizance. We see two conscious thoughts in the term homeopath.... home/path. Most people of the time made their cures at home. Thus home in cognition to the definition. Then we see path, like one who follows that path in philosophy. And we get the term homeopathy and its infered meaning dealing with natural cures, herbs, roots, ect...

The true definition is not understood by these persons because they infered their definition of the term from the social consciousness, not the academic or legal language. Thus we as a society are developing a second definition of the term homeopath.

You are correct in your argument. But that person, albeit standing in ignorance, is apart of the social consciousness and helping the term to develope a second definition.

You are right to feel the way that you felt.


Don't care.

Thanks for sharing your lack of caring.....again.

@TiberiusGracchus, @BlueWave l love to share, good parenting. ☺

@TiberiusGracchus Like yours. ☺


All discussions and debates require definitions.


I tend to reject those who make up their own definitions to words and phrases.
I'm not putting up with that bullshit. Much the same as I will not put up with
"alternative facts". "Alternative facts" are LIES. Making up your own definitions
is unacceptable. There are books called "dictionaries". That's where the definitions to words come from. Yours don't count.

It's not supposed to be about making up definitions for a word, it's about defining the term you use to express an idea or set of ideas so you don't have to continually weave awkward semantic phrases into what needs to be a clear and easy to understand format. If a disagreement over a term or its definition arises, it can be handled more clearly and with less confrontation than 'that's not what that word means this is what it means.' Many words in the dictionary have multiple definitions.

@icolan Precisely my point.

@icolan @KKGator My mistake. Absolutely 100% agree.


I think you must be right. There's a wonderful example of what you're talking about in the YouTube video 'Black People Can't Be Racist'.


An important part of discourse, which many seem to overlook, is the definition of terms. In theory, it should be one of the first things addressed by an argument. It is important to define your terms so that the discourse is about the topic, not a semantic argument about undefined terms and their interpretive uses.

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