From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

Would it make sense to create a collection of only lemmas and one-liner definitions? That is, nothing but sub-stubs, a stub-o-pedia. It needs not necessarily be a wiki, maybe a TXT file will do, with one line per word. Perhaps these short definitions could even be extracted automatically from the definitions in Wiktionary, Wikipedia disambiguation pages, and the first sentence of Wikipedia articles? Could this be an output of the long promised Ultimate Wiktionary, or should it be produced separately?

Instead of a wiki of its own, these short definitions could be given as a template macro inside the ordinary Wikipedia or Wiktionary, e.g. in the Elephant article: {{definition|a large land animal with trunk and tusks}}.

The Icelandic Wikipedia, says Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason, puts <noinclude> after the first paragraph of an article and </noinclude> at the very end, so that {{:Article}} can be put in the article's top category, to get a summary of the topic.

People have been downloading the Wikipedia to their PDAs, but sometimes when you're mobile you don't have time to read entire articles; you just want a quick definition. It could be something even more compact than typical American dictionaries, and not having the linguistic ambition of Wiktionary.

Does such a collection of short definitions already exist in the free? It sure does not in Swedish. What about other languages?

Some real-life examples of short definitions[edit]

el·e·phant (el'-e-fent) n. A very large herbivorous mammal of Africa and Asia with a long flexible trunc and long tusks. [<Gk. elephas]
The American Heritage Dictionary, office edition, paperback, 1994
Elefanten, Huftiere, mit Stoßzähnen. Afrikan. E., 3 1/2 m hoch, Stoßzähne bis 2 1/2 m lang; Ind. E., 3 m hoch, Stoßzähne bis 1 1/2 m.
Meyers Blitz-Lexikon, 1932
el·e·phant (el'e fent) n., pl. -phants, (esp. collectively) -phant. 1. any of several large, five-toed mammals, with the nose and upper lip elongated into a prehensile trunk, of the family Elephantidae, of the genera Loxodonta, of Africa, having large, flapping ears and tusks of ivory in both males and females, and Elephas, of India and neighboring regions, having comparatively small ears and tusks in the males only.
Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, 1994
Elefant, E-le-fant <m. 16> in Herden lebendes Pflanzenfresser mit kurzem Hals u. zum Rüssel (Greiforgan) verlängter, schlauchförmiger Nase: die oberen Schneidezähne sind als Stoßzähne ausgebildet: Elephantida; [< ahd. elafant, elpfant, helfant < lat. elephantus < grch. elephas; hierzu Elfenbein]
— Wahrig, Deutsches Wörterbuch, 6. Auflage, 1997
Elephant, a large land animal
— From the disambiguation page Elephant on the English Wikipedia.
Elephantidae (the elephants) is a family of animals, the only family in the order Proboscidea that still exists today.
— First sentence of the English Wikipedia article Elephant.
noun elephant (plural elephants) 1. A mammal of the order Proboscidia, having a trunk, and two large ivory tusks jutting from the upper jaw. Elephants are the largest land animals now existing.
— Definition from the English Wiktionary article Elephant.

The above definitions of elephant are already too long for the vision of a "stubopedia", we could settle for the disambiguation definition. Note how the first (American) concentrates on language and gives a description in words, while the second (German) pretends to be scientific by giving precise numbers while failing to describe the animal and wastes valuable space by repeating the long word Stoßzähne (tusks) three times.

The art of writing a Stubopedia would be to write elegant and short definitions within, say, 70 characters, similar to a huge disambiguation page. Proposed format:

  • African elephant, see [[savannah elephant]] and [[forest elephant]]
  • elephant, large land animal with trunk and tusks. Elephantidae
  • elephant, film by [[Gus van Sant]], 2003
  • elephant, album by [[The White Stripes]], 2003
  • Indian elephant, now known as [[Asian elephant]]
  • savannah elephant, in Africa, world's largest e. Loxodonta africana