An analytic definition is a description of the range of reference of a lexical unit. This description is made up of a:
- generic term identifying the broad category to which it belongs, and
- modifying word or phrase which specifies its obligatory components of meaning, thus
- restricting it to include only the appropriate referents, and
- distinguishing it from similar senses and words.
The obligatory components that are specified in an analytic definition are also referred to as core, central, criterial, or diagnostic by semanticists and lexicographers.
- doctor—"a person licensed to practice medicine"
- eat—"to take into the body, through the mouth, something which may be thought of as food"
- doctor—"physician; surgeon"
- eat—"consume; devour"
Defining a lexical unit using a synonym or generic term alone is not sufficient to distinguish it from similar words.