A "description" of something does not necessarily have to completely describe the thing. For example, one could describe a mouse as "small and grey", but this leaves out a lot of information. Someone who did not know what a mouse was would have a very incomplete picture.

Is there a word for a description which aims to capture something as completely as possible, by reducing it to its components?

I have a feeling there is a word for this which maybe ends in -onomy or -ology.

I don't think it's taxonomy because that refers to an overarching system of description/classification covering many different "things".

  • @NVZ I am curious. Why do you put this as a comment and not an answer? – thomj1332 Jun 9 '17 at 14:30
  • @thomj1332 feel free to use my comments into an answer of your own. :) – NVZ Jun 9 '17 at 14:32
  • Perhaps morphology or physiology? – Steve Lovell Jun 9 '17 at 16:26
  • It is a complete description or a complete specification. – Drew Jun 9 '17 at 16:43
  • The non-count noun 'well-definedness' is given at The noun form of "well-defined". I wouldn't use 'well-definition' though. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 10 '17 at 1:38

Consider (full) specification.

specification noun 1 An act of identifying something precisely or of stating a precise requirement. ‘give a full specification of the job advertised’ - ODO

For a more clinical analysis of the item, consider breakdown:

breakdown noun 3.1 An explanatory analysis, especially of statistics. ‘Under another new directive, all products containing any allergens must include details of their chemical breakdown.’ - ODO

For a more analogical term taken from the field of design, consider blueprint (definition 1.1).

Moving somewhat further afield, you might want to consider gene as the specification for a living thing.

  • I like this but it has the implication of being prior to the existence of the thing specified. Analysis is similar but sounds like it comes after. I can't seem to think of something more neutral. – Steve Lovell Jun 9 '17 at 16:18
  • 1
    @SteveLovell A breakdown, perhaps? I've added it to my answer. – Lawrence Jun 9 '17 at 22:56
  • It's interesting that ODO gives ' ... identifying something precisely' but then seems to feel the need to add 'full'. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 10 '17 at 1:46
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth Yes, umm, precisely. ODO sources their examples from their corpora. Admittedly, the examples retained were chosen by their editorial team. – Lawrence Jun 10 '17 at 8:45

taxonomy (Dictionary.com) (per NVZ's comment)

from Biology: the science dealing with the description, identification, naming, and classification of organisms.

  • that may be the word i was thinking of, but if so the meaning is not quite what i had in mind. thanks though ! – karen Jun 9 '17 at 14:39
  • Taxonomy is about classification, not describing. Even the complete Dictionary.com definition (not given here) expresses this. – Drew Jun 9 '17 at 16:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.