Definition of Description

Definition Last Updated 17-Dec-2015 12:51

A description is a set of one or more criteria referencing the values of named characteristics; descriptions are independent of describable things or stuff.

A description comprising a single criterion is either a true or a false description of a particular thing accordingly as that thing satisfies that criterion or does not.

A single description comprising multiple criteria describes something to an extent determined by rules for the combination of the results from the application of individual criteria.

Descriptions determine the identification and characterisation of entities through the characterisation of observables, which by association with an identified entity may become attributes of that entity, i.e. its properties, relationships and behaviours.

Description is contrasted with specification, which is a set of one or more prescriptive rules, i.e. a set of instructions for making something that conforms to a description or for defining something.

Something is said to satisfy a specification to the extent that it satisfies the criteria given by the specification, i.e. the extent to which an accurate description of the thing matches the description desired for it.


Description is a defined term of Enterprise Architecture. Description is a defined term of Business Analysis.


Article Last Updated 17-Dec-2015 12:51

Are descriptions independent of describable things? Indeed they are, consider the following description, “More than 3m tall at the shoulder, weight greater than five tonnes, possessed of large tusks.” which is a good description of many elephants but a bad description of a cat.

Given an entity, one may produce a description of it, but for there to be entity in the first place there been a description, even if that description is created in the process of identification. The detailed description of something may contain much that is contingent about the thing.

You may have a description of me that allows you to recognise me by height, facial characteristics, etc., but you may then add, “There is a piece of fluff on his left cuff,” which is probably not permanent or distinctive: I am Julian I-do-stuff, not Julian who-has-fluff.

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