Definition essays


A definition essay is, perhaps, not the most common writing assignment. It presupposes an extended explanation of a specific word. That is right! You are to write an entire essay on a single word. Naturally, it should not be a word that has a too simple and straightforward meaning. On the one hand, it is a challenge. But on the other hand, it is an adventurous task. This article will help you to create your definition essay.

The purpose of this type of essay is to provide a reader with an explanation of a complex term most people know that has got a historical meaning and background. For instance, if you take the word ’evil,’ the answer may seem clear: it is something terrible. But is it all?

You cannot explain this concept in two words, as you may recollect so many angles and contexts behind the word ’evil.’ Here is where a definition essay helps you represent a problematic concept or term. This type of essay allows you to improve your critical thinking, writing skills, and ability to generate ideas based on your personal experience.

Definition essay types

As you may think, the types of a definition essay strongly depend on a specific subject you choose to write about. Some concepts or terms are less complicated, and others are many-sided. It is the topic you choose that specifies your definition essay type. Here are some definition essay types to make it more understandable for you:

Easy topics: a simple matter presupposes a word that is generally known and used. Make sure you also understand the chosen term and can manage to write an essay. If you have doubts, consider some concepts that have literary value, for instance, a hero, a villain. Besides, you may use some classical works in your essay to see the evolution of a typical hero character.

Extended topics: if you decide to write a definition writing task about a more complex term, you may pick a word with several interpretations, symbolic meanings, or ambivalent meanings. If you are new to this, here is how to find your extended term:

  • It would help if you search for a word that does not have a single meaning; the more definitions it has, the better it is for your creative thinking. As an example, here are some extended terms for you: optimism, freedom, and punishment.
  • You pick the right word if you can approach it with a new explanation every time. Consider quotes for your essays — you will find enough public personalities, artists, and scientists who share their opinions regarding many things.

Topics for students: science students, for instance, can find the most appropriate term within the topics they cover during classes. Even if you have not completed a specific subtopic, you can do an individual study. Choose an issue that is interesting for you personally — by doing so, you can show in your essay that you are really passionate about it.

Some general dos and don’ts for a definition essay:

  • Research to get manifold data: use various dictionaries, find some literature periodicals, etc.
  • Do not hesitate to specify the instructions’ details.
  • Consider several words or terms before picking the one you are going to write about.
  • Do not forget to check the formatting requirements for the essay.
  • Search for some examples of definition essays.
  • Do not put away the essay for later — it will take some time to research and organize your writing process.

Definition Essay Examples

  • Definition essay: Trust

Definition essay: Trust

  • Definition paper on the word "Strength"

Definition paper on the word

  • Definition Essay -- A Good Friend

Definition Essay -- A Good Friend

Elements for your effective definition essay

Write an insightful analysis

Some words can consist of two parts. Your task is to provide a reader with an exhaustive definition, and you can go very creative at this stage. For instance, you decide on defining the word ’ownership.’ So, the term has two constituents: ’owner’ and ’ship’. You can go on analyzing these two elements.

At the same time, do not focus on this strategy too much, as you can also resort to a negation tactic. Negation is when you comprehend a term by demonstrating what it is not. In other words, you contrast your word with some other terms. Classification is another tactic you can apply.

This means you should be aware of what groups or categories are applicable in your case. The best way to find out is to check a standard definition in a dictionary. That is how you can see the context in which people tend to use the word. It is not that exciting as this information is rather formal and plain, yet, it will be handy for you.

Compare your term with something everyone knows

The chances are high that you would like to write about a term or concept that is not familiar to anybody. And it is understood, while such words are more interesting to discover. You can try to compare your term to a concept or word that is closer to an average reader. For example, not everyone knows the word ’connoisseur’, while ’expert’ is familiar to every person.

Give some traditional facts and details about your word

Giving a traditional perspective on the term of your choice, you comfort your reader. Namely, you show that the term is not that complicated, and a reader may know or have heard about it. The explanation of some traditional definitions will help you to introduce readers to your topic.

Even if you choose a familiar word, it would still help if you give some traditional physical characteristics.

Provide some examples to comprehend the word’s meaning

Talking about examples for a definition essay, it can be pretty much anything. If you explain a rather abstract concept, it will help if you use an image or even a story to present your topic better. However, if you are working with a word that is generally understood, for instance, ’generosity,’ it would be appropriate to mention a situation you recently witnessed, for instance.

Dig deeper into the term’s background

You might be surprised to find out how many words have an exciting etymology. It is not always so, though. Yet, you should check whether your term has got something interesting in its roots, mention the origin, and pay attention to its modern meaning.

Preparing an outline and mastering the format

A classical school or college essay structure includes the introductory, main (body), and concluding parts. A definition essay is no different in terms of the structure — it has all three constituents. Below, you will get some more information on every part of the definition paper and its format.

Since your task is to write a definition essay, you should stick to a traditional format to succeed. Here are the required sections:

  • The introduction. The first paragraph, literally, introduces a reader to your topic and, more importantly, your thesis. You should let a reader know whether the word is commonly known, and provide concise information on it. As for the thesis statement, you can mention here why your purpose matters so that the readers understand what your main body is going to be about. It would be better not to start your definition with ’is’ so that it does not remind you of a dictionary explanation.
  • The body. The main part of your essay is similar to a storage area, where you will keep all your thoughts, comparisons, and proofs regarding the word of your choice. You must think ahead about the tactics you wish to apply, examples, and sources. Nonetheless, the body paragraphs should not be bulky or include more than one idea.
  • Spread your tactics and ideas within the body part. The thing is that if you stuff every paragraph with multiple explanations of definition, a reader may misunderstand the term and lose the train of your thought. Your task is to give a thorough definition, but it would be so hard to embed it in one paragraph.
  • The number of paragraphs in your main part should be equal to the number of your ideas. You have total freedom and can resort to the most various means to prove your claims. Besides, a definitive essay allows you to include some motley imagery, personal stories, and historical backgrounds.
  • The conclusion. The last paragraph in your essay will summarize your work in a laconic manner. You must rephrase the thesis sentence and also mention the means that helped you to examine the word. You can elaborate the thesis sentence and draw the line explaining why the word of your choice is a standard one. Some people also tend to add something personal to the conclusion. For example, you can restate the thesis and add how the term or word relates to you personally. Yet, consider that you must not include any contradicting or new information in your definition in the concluding paragraph.

Think about Statement

Arguable thesis means that it can be argued. It must either state or refute an argument about your topic. To be debateable, a thesis must have some possibility of being true. However, the thesis should not be universally accepted as true. Instead, it should be something that people can disagree with. A thesis can be both an observation or an opinion.

observation + opinion (the "why") = thesis

Seeing if your thesis creates a powerful antithesis is an excellent approach to determine how strong it is.

Common thesis pitfalls:

  • A thesis in the form of a fragment.
  • A thesis that is overly broad.
  • A thesis that is phrased as a question. (The thesis is usually derived from the solution to the question.)
  • Extraneous information is included in a thesis.
  • A thesis that begins with the words "I believe" or "In my opinion."

List of Definition Essay Topics

  1. Team Player
  2. Optimism
  3. Natural Beauty
  4. Respect
  5. Ambitions
  6. Family
  7. Strong Leader
  8. Buddhism
  9. Happiness
  10. Perfect Couple
  11. Racism
  12. Ambitions
  13. Success
  14. Peer pressure
  15. Business woman
  16. Marriage
  17. Modern Art
  18. Communism
  19. Selfie
  20. Social Media
  21. What is ideal college
  22. What does ‘college’ signify?
  23. College: The evolution of a term
  24. College: search for true sense
  25. More than just the word — what is a college?
  26. Ways to define 'college'
  27. Is the death penalty arrogance or justice?
  28. Sports is the best hobby for youth
  29. What is patriotism and why it is vital in the modern world?
  30. Global warming: What is it and what are the main causes?
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FAQ about Definition essays

What is a good cross-cultural definition of marriage?
...More likely, as noted by anthropologists, the mixture of cultures as per resulted from cross-cultural marriages, would create a possible way by which people could attain peaceful adjustments towards the life of others on the other side of the earth, ...