Dictionary Opening

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/pulp_fiction_opening.jpg
http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/pacific_rim_opening.jpg

Trope n. A conceptual figure of speech, a storytelling shorthand for a concept that the audience will recognize and understand instantly.

Dictionary opening (noun): A trope commonly seen in trailers for movies and video games as well as in the actual material where one of the first things shown to the viewer is the definition of an existing but uncommon word or one that solely exists within the fictional universe portrayed. Either way, the word tends to be central to the story. Said definition tends to be formatted as if coming straight out of a dictionary or encyclopedia and may include a reference to an actual in-universe book.

Oftentimes the word will be an Arc Word.

Sub-Trope of Epigraph.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animation 
  • The teaser trailer for Disney's Zootopia has the word "anthropomorphic" appear in large Courier typeface, which the red fox character pushes away. The narrator defines it as "a big, fancy word that means they walk around on two feet, they do not go to work nude ..." as key words from the definition appear on screen in the same type face. The definition never appears in its entirety as an actual dictionary entry though.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dogma opens with "Disclaimer: 1) a renunciation of any claim to or connection with; 2) disavowal; 3) a statement made to save one's own ass."
  • Pacific Rim showed translations for the Japanese word "Kaiju" and the German word "Jaeger", the names for the monsters and mechas respectively.
  • Pulp Fiction opens with both definitions of the word "pulp".
  • Sicario opens with a black screen explaining in text what "sicario" means (it comes from a fanatical sect of Jews who knifed Roman occupiers and their collaborators in Judea, and it has come mean "hitman" in Mexico), though it's not in a dictionary structure.
  • Twister opened with the dictionary definition of a tornado.
  • The trailer for Vertigo opens with a zoom-up on the description of "Vertigo" in a dictionary.

    Literature 
  • Dragon Bones starts with "Hurog means dragon" under the chapter title, and the protagonist repeats the definition in an inner monologue on the second page. It foreshadows much of the plot.
  • David Weber's The Apocalypse Troll uses definitions from the fictional "Webster-Wangchi Unabridged Dictionary of Standard English" as chapter epigraphs.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Code Black opens with a definition of its title. ("An influx of patients so great, there aren't enough resources to treat them all.") It then explains that while the average ER is in Code Black five times a year, the hospital where the show takes place experiences that three hundred times a year.
  • Every episode (there may have been exceptions) of CSI: Cyber opened with a hacking term significant to the episode and its definition.
  • Halt and Catch Fire opens with the definition of its title:
    HALT AND CATCH FIRE (HCF)
    An early computer command that sent the machine into a race condition, forcing all instructions to compete for superiority at once.
    Control of the computer could not be regained.
  • The Mentalist season 1 starts with a black screen wich the following text slowly fading in:
    mentalist /'men-te-list/ noun. Someone who uses mental acuity, hypnosis and/or suggestion. A master manipulator of thoughts and behavior.

    Video Games 
  • The Hope trailer for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
    WITCHERS, so called by the Nordlings (q.v.), were an elite and mysterious caste of warrior-monks. They are portrayed in popular lore as posessing magic powers and superhuman abilities. W. were believed to combat evil spirits, beasts and all manner of dark forces. In reality (...) w. served the monarchs of the North in the tribal wars they waged against one another.
  • The trailer for the 3DS remake for Xenoblade.
    The Monado - a divine sword capable of disturbing the very fabric of existance.

    Web Original 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: The Pyramid of Light movie starts with giving the definition of "abridged", then of Yu-Gi-Oh!.
  • Whateley Universe: In Test Tube Babies:
    ‘test’: n., an examination or evaluation
    ‘tube’: n., slang term for television or video-related imagery
    ‘babies’: n., colloquially, neophytes or tyros

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DictionaryOpening