Difference Between
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Explain vs. Define: Know the Difference

Dua Fatima
By Dua Fatima & Shumaila Saeed || Published on June 22, 2024
Explaining involves detailing or clarifying a concept, often including context and examples, whereas defining means stating the exact meaning of a word or phrase, typically in a concise manner.
Explain vs. Define

Key Differences

We explain something, we're providing a detailed description or clarification to make a concept or process understandable. This involves context, background information, and possibly examples to illustrate the point. Defining, on the other hand, is about giving the precise meaning of a term or phrase. Definitions are usually concise and aim to encapsulate the essence of a concept without the extraneous detail that an explanation might include.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jun 22, 2024
Explanation can be seen as painting a broader picture, where the goal is to cover the subject in enough detail that the audience gains a comprehensive understanding. It's interactive and adaptive, often tailored to the audience's level of knowledge. Definitions are the building blocks in this process, providing the foundational meanings upon which explanations can build.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024
An explanation might include definitions as part of its narrative, using them to clarify points before expanding upon them with additional information. In contrast, a definition stands alone, offering a quick reference or clarification without the need for extensive background information.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024
The value of explaining lies in its ability to connect concepts, demonstrate relationships, and apply knowledge to real-world scenarios. Definitions, while crucial, serve as a starting point or a reference that supports the deeper understanding provided by explanations.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024

Comparison Chart

Purpose

To make something clear or understandable
To state the meaning of a word or concept
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024
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Focus

Context, background, and application
The essence or core meaning
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024

Includes

Examples, analogies, broader discussion
Concise statement of meaning
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024

Aims

Enhance comprehension, address "how" and "why"
Provide a clear and direct understanding, address "what"
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Jun 22, 2024

Adaptability

Tailored to audience's knowledge level
Typically standard and straightforward
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024

Explain and Define Definitions

Explain

Tailored to the audience's understanding.
For young children, he explained the concept of time using a simple analogy of a day-night cycle.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 01, 2024
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Define

To state the precise meaning of a term.
The dictionary defines biodiversity as the variety of life in the world or a particular ecosystem.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

Can incorporate definitions.
The lecture explained economic principles by defining key terms like inflation and GDP.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 01, 2024

Define

Serves as a reference point.
Legal documents define terms like plaintiff and defendant to clarify their roles.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

Involves providing context and examples.
To explain gravity, the teacher used the example of an apple falling from a tree.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

Focuses on the "what."
Ecosystem is defined as a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.
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Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024
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Explain

To make an idea clear by describing it in more detail.
He explained the process of photosynthesis by detailing how plants convert sunlight into energy.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 01, 2024

Define

Concise and to the point.
Democracy is defined as a system of government by the whole population, typically through elected representatives.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

Addresses the "how" and "why."
She explained why the sky is blue due to the scattering of sunlight by the atmosphere.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

Foundational for understanding concepts.
Before discussing photosynthesis, the teacher defined chlorophyll as the green pigment in plants.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

To make plain or comprehensible.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To describe the nature or basic qualities of; explain
Define the properties of a new drug.
A study that defines people according to their median incomes.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

To offer reasons for or a cause of; justify
Explain an error.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To make clear the outline or form of; delineate
Gentle hills that were defined against the sky.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

To make something plain or comprehensible
Let me explain.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To specify distinctly
Define the weapons to be used in limited warfare.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

To give a valid excuse for past behavior.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To give form or meaning to
"For him, a life is defined by action" (Jay Parini).
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

(obsolete) To make flat, smooth out.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To make or write a definition.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

(obsolete) To unfold or make visible.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To determine with precision; to mark out with distinctness; to ascertain or exhibit clearly.
The defining power of an optical instrument
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

To flatten; to spread out; to unfold; to expand.
The horse-chestnut is . . . ready to explain its leaf.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

(obsolete) To settle, decide an argument etc.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

To make plain, manifest, or intelligible; to clear of obscurity; to expound; to unfold and illustrate the meaning of; as, to explain a chapter of the Bible.
Commentators to explain the difficult passages to you.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To express the essential nature of something.
I define myself as a techno-anarchist.
Your past mistakes do not define who you are.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

To give an explanation.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

(mathematics) To establish the referent of a term or notation.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

Make palin and comprehensible;
He explained the laws of physics to his students
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

(programming) A kind of macro in source code that replaces one text string with another wherever it occurs.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

Define;
The committe explained their plan for fund-raising to the Dean
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To determine; to decide.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

To define; expound
We explained our plan to the committee.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

Give a definition for the meaning of a word;
Define `sadness'
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

To offer reasons for the actions, beliefs, or remarks of (oneself).
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To state the precise meaning of (a word or sense of a word, for example).
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

To make plain, manifest, or intelligible; to clear of obscurity; to illustrate the meaning of.
She is about to explain a chapter of the Bible to the Sunday School students.
She tried to explain but he wouldn’t listen.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To state the meaning of a word, phrase, sign, or symbol.
The textbook defined speed as velocity divided by time.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

(intransitive) To make something plain or intelligible.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To describe, explain, or make definite and clear; used to request the listener or other person to elaborate or explain more clearly his or her intended meaning of a word or expression.
Person 1: Is she good at math?
Person 2: Define "good." If you mean if she is faster than the average middle schooler at multiplication, then yes. If you mean if she is able to do multivariable calculus, then no.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Explain

Serve as a reason or cause or justification of;
Your need to sleep late does not excuse your late arrival at work
Her recent divorce amy explain her reluctance to date again
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To demark sharply the outlines or limits of an area or concept.
To define the legal boundaries of a property
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To fix the bounds of; to bring to a termination; to end.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To determine or clearly exhibit the boundaries of; to mark the limits of; as, to define the extent of a kingdom or country.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To determine with precision; to mark out with distinctness; to ascertain or exhibit clearly; as, the defining power of an optical instrument.
Rings . . . very distinct and well defined.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

To determine the precise signification of; to fix the meaning of; to describe accurately; to explain; to expound or interpret; as, to define a word, a phrase, or a scientific term.
They define virtue to be life ordered according to nature.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

Determine the essential quality of
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

Determine the nature of;
What defines a good wine?
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 01, 2024

Define

Delineate the form or outline of;
The tree was clearly defined by the light
The camera could define the smallest object
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 01, 2024

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Is one more important than the other?

Both are crucial: definitions offer clarity, and explanations provide the comprehensive understanding.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Jun 22, 2024

Can a definition include an explanation?

Definitions are typically concise, but they can be followed by explanations for deeper understanding.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024

How do definitions support explanations?

They provide the essential meanings that form the basis for further elaboration and understanding.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jun 22, 2024

What is the difference between explaining and defining?

Explaining provides detailed understanding including context, while defining gives the precise meaning of a term.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jun 22, 2024

Do explanations vary based on the audience?

Yes, explanations are often tailored to the audience's prior knowledge and understanding level.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024

How do you choose between explaining and defining?

The choice depends on the goal: for quick clarification, define; for in-depth understanding, explain.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jun 22, 2024

Is it possible to have multiple definitions for one term?

Yes, especially for words with multiple uses or meanings in different contexts.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024

Why is explaining important?

It enhances comprehension, connecting concepts and demonstrating their application in real-world scenarios.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024

How does one effectively explain a complex concept?

Start with simple definitions, use examples and analogies, and gradually build up to more complex details.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024

How do cultural differences impact explanations?

Cultural context can influence how concepts are explained and understood, requiring sensitivity and adaptation.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Jun 22, 2024

Can a definition be wrong?

Yes, if it inaccurately captures the essence of the term. Accuracy is crucial for effective definitions.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Jun 22, 2024

Can you explain without defining?

While possible, defining key terms first often makes explanations clearer and more effective.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Jun 22, 2024

Can definitions evolve?

Yes, as language and understanding of concepts evolve, so do their definitions.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Jun 22, 2024

What role do examples play in explanations?

They illustrate concepts, making abstract ideas more concrete and relatable.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Jun 22, 2024

Why might someone prefer a definition over an explanation?

For quick reference or when only the basic meaning is needed without the broader context.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jun 22, 2024

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About Author
Dua Fatima
Written by
Dua Fatima
Shumaila Saeed
Co-written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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