How to Write a Definition Essay

definition essay writing tips
Category: Essay Writing

Oftentimes, while reading or conducting research, you encounter dozens of new words, which often look interesting enough. If you are a diligent student, you always check their meaning in a dictionary. Dictionaries usually give you a proper definition that makes it easier to memorize a new word.

However, it happens that a word is rather complex and requires a small article for a proper explanation. That is an answer to your question “what is the definition essay.”

What is a Definition Essay?

It is not so easy to write a definition essay as it may seem. Such kind of a paper has to include a part of your personal attitude and a formal explanation of the word given. First of all, you should remember that you are going to write an essay, that is why you cannot choose the words that can be easily explained.

Requirements for Your Word:

  • Сomplexity
  • Significant Background
  • Historical Origin
  • People are Able to Relate to It

For example, if you choose the word “happiness” you cannot explain it in a few sentences, so you have to create an essay to give the description that can be recognized as a universal one.

Examples of Definition Essays: Ideas for Writing

  • Involves the definitions of all the concept parts.
  • Shows the classes the word belongs to.
  • Show the similarities to the common and differences from it.
  • Underline the specific features of your paper idea.
  • Explain the concept by denying its opposite.
  • Origins, Background Information, and Causes.
  • Results, After Effects, and Uses of the concept.

Possible Definition Essay Topics for College

  • What Feature Makes You a Hero
  • Describe Success.
  • What is Love?
  • How Can You Explain Beauty?
  • Give the Definition of Happiness.
  • Define What Respect Means.
  • How Can One Define Loyalty?
  • Give the Definition of Courage.
  • What is Heroism?
  • Describe

These are some examples of definition paper topics that are asked for assignments. Of course, there is a countless number of words to define. Choose the one that is the word of significant meaning to you or the word that inspires you.

A definition essay outline may vary in length based on the complexity of the term described. Regardless, every definition essay should include the classic parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.

How to start a definition essay?

As a first step, you have to choose the right term.

  • A Proper Term

It is not possible to write an essay describing a simple word. That is why you have to pick up your term carefully. If you choose a noun that can be described by one or two words, you will not succeed in devising your paper.

For example, when you choose the word “brain,” you don’t have much space for your imagination to take run. However, if you choose the word “thinking,” you can describe the term in your own unique and subjective manner.

  • Multi-Aspect Word

Words with multiple meanings can be interpreted differently by people from different cultures. That is why do not choose terms that mean exactly the same thing in different parts of the world, like “door” or “good-bye.” Pick up something tricky instead.

  • A Term Familiar to You

You will not be able to express yourself fully if a term you use has no personal meaning for you. Choose a term that is familiar to you, but has not been explored fully by you yet.

  • Research is necessary

Every word has some history behind. Use a dictionary and write about your word origins.

Definition Essay Example


First of all, you should inform your audience about the essence of your future essay. In this type of essay, the introduction has to present two main things:

  • Definition of the term
  • Thesis definition

Those two types of definitions will certainly have differences. First of all, the term has to be defined according to the dictionary article, as readers have to understand the word given. Then you will start writing your personal explanation.

Thesis Statement

Such statement includes your understanding of the term. This is a mixture of the standard definition and your personal style, thoughts, and imagination. This part should not be too big; you will explain everything in the next section. Never use passive phrases with “is” in your definitions, such as “is where” or “is when”.


You have to break this part into several paragraphs, for example:

  •         Body Paragraph 1: Historical Origins
  •         Body Paragraph 2: Explanation and use according to the dictionary.
  •         Body Paragraph 3: Your own definition based on your experience.


In this section, you have to summarize all your main points in a rephrased manner. Don’t forget to include a part explaining how the term and the writing process influenced you personally.

Hopefully, these recommendations, as well as the list of definition paper topics were helpful for you.


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