General definitions by prof. Motro uit 2003:
Systems in stable self-equilibrated state comprising a discontinuous set of compressed components inside a continuum of tensioned components.
Definition by Anthony Pugh:
A tensegrity system is established when a set of discontinuous compressive components interacts with with a set of continuous tensile components to define a stable volume in space.
A definition by Buckminster Fuller, who also invented the word Tensegrity:
An assemblage of tension and compression components arranged in a discontinuous compression system.
Another description by Buckminster Fuller:
Islands of compression in a sea of tension.
A. Hanaor's definition is more description:
Internally prestressed, free-standing pin-joined networks, in which the cables or tendons are tensioned against a system of bars or struts.
A translation of the description by Chris Heunen en Dick van Leijenhorst:
Strings that keep the construction together and the struts apart.
Definition by Miura and Pellegrino:
A tensegrity structure is any structure realised from cables and struts, to which a state of prestress is imposed that imparts tension to all cables.
Definition by Bob Burkhardt that includes a wide range of constructions including a bicycle wheel
A tensegrity is a pattern integrity which has purely-tensile portions which are essential to its integrity.
A "pattern integrity" is a description of a system whose instances maintain a stable pattern in space and time in a variety of situations.
"purely-tensile portions" means portions which are at least sometimes in tension and are not required to sustain non-tensile loads.
"essential to its integrity" means that in general the instances of a pattern integrity are not able to maintain their stable patterns without the presence of certain purely-tensile portions.
Phil Earnhardt studies the human body from the tensegrity idea and, inspired by professor John Wheeler's "Time is nature's way to keep everything from happening at once." he made definitions of compression and tension:
Compression is nature's way to keep everything from happening at the same place.
Tension is nature's way to keep everything happening closely enough.
According to Wang Bin-Bing a tensegrity has the following characteristics:
It is composed of compression and tension elements.
The struts (compression elements) are discontinuous while the cables (tension elements) are continuous.
The structure is rigidified by self-stressing.
The structure is self-supporting.
Valentín Gómez Jáuregui writes in a his dissertation about tensegrities the following definition:
Tensegrity is a structural principle based on the use of isolated components in compression inside a net of continuous tension, in such a way that the compressed members (usually bars or struts) do not touch each other and the prestressed tensioned members (usually cables or tendons) delineate the system spatially.