definition essay what

How to Write a Definition Essay: New Guide with Samples

definition essay what

Understanding What is a Definition Essay

Eristic sophistry was employed by the ultracrepidarian in his quidnunc attempt to impress the aeolist crowd at the symposium.

Be honest, how many times did you read the above sentence to get a gist of it? We bet at least more than once. You might even got a little annoyed trying to make sense of it. Well, that's exactly what brings us to today's main subject, which is to understand the importance of defining things that are not so popular or easy to explain.

Humans have a natural instinct to understand concepts and words when placed in the proper context. However, that might not always be the case. To avoid getting lost in translation, we must understand the words we communicate and be able to explain them to others as well.

No wonder why definition essays are a common assignment in high school and college. However, for this kind of paper, you need to go the extra mile rather than just providing a dictionary definition of a certain word or concept. A definition essay is meant to describe a complex term that has significant background and historical origin.

To save you from wasting your valuable time figuring out what is a definition essay, let's explain frequently used definition essay types and steps for the writing process.

Commonly Used Definition Essay Types

Have you discovered an intriguing term with a rich past that you want to go into in your definition essay? Consider your options and what you can do with them before committing to them.

Following are some suggestions for structuring your definition essay from our rewrite essay service :

  • Analysis : Segment the argumentative essay definition topic into components, then define each component separately.
  • Classification : What categories does the problem fall under?
  • Comparison : Unusual things may be determined by showing how similar or different they are from usual things.
  • Details : What traits and other distinctive qualities best reflect the paper's central idea?
  • Negation : Explain what your narrative essay definition topic isn't to narrow down what it is.
  • Origins and Causes : Where did the theme first appear? What historical details are there? What is the background of the concept?
  • Results, Effects, and Uses : Describe the after-effects and uses of the subject.

How to Write a Definition Essay with a Definition Essay Outline

Just like other kinds of writing, a definition essay outline consists of a classic intro-body-conclusion format. However, in this scenario, what you discuss in the body paragraphs is unique and specific to other essays. For example, you can devote body sections to first providing a historical context, then explaining a dictionary definition; afterward, you can even discuss your personal opinion of the term while contrasting it with the expert definition in the other. Finally, you can also convey the term in terms of the cultural definition and implications.

To give you a more detailed outlook on how to write a definition essay, let's dive into the following sections prepared by our research paper writer .

Definition Essay Introduction

The reader is initially introduced to your essay's topic in the introductory part of a definition essay. This implies that it must be extremely informative and compelling enough to convince the reader to read the entire essay. So, the following elements should be included:

A. Hook: Use a catchy phrase or question to grab the reader's attention.

B. Background Information: Briefly explain the topic and why it's important to define it.

C. Thesis Statement: Clearly state the term and your definition of it.

Definition Essay Body Paragraphs

In the body of your essay, deconstruct the phrase into its component pieces, evaluate it from multiple viewpoints, and then give a relevant justification. Depending on the requirements of your assignment, you might need to write more than three paragraphs. You may add additional sections or swap the order around depending on the intricacy of your term. The following can be employed for the body:

A. Historical Definition: Explain the origin and evolution of the term.

B. Dictionary Definition: Provide the official definition and compare it to your own.

C. Personal Definition: Explain your understanding and interpretation of the term using examples and anecdotes.

D. Expert Definition: Cite an expert or scholar's definition and explain how it differs from yours.

E. Cultural Definition: Discuss how the term is used in popular culture and how it reflects societal values.

Definition Essay Conclusion

The final portion, the concluding paragraph, is where you must restate the main points. Follow these steps to structure the perfect ending:

A. Restate Thesis: Summarize your definition and why it matters.

B. Implications: Explain how understanding the term can inform our thinking and behavior.

C. Call to Action: Encourage readers to use the term correctly and to promote accurate definitions in their communities.

20 Definition Essay Topic Ideas

Our dissertation writing help compiled a list of definition essay topics you can use to base your upcoming paper on. From a definition argument essay to an expository essay definition, you can use the following ideas to create a well-structured piece.

  • Define the characteristics of the ideal family from your point of view.
  • What is the Picture of a Common American Family Show?
  • Politicians' Friendships as a Special Phenomenon
  • Comparing American Definitions of Freedom with Those of Other Nations
  • How Freedom Relates to Money
  • Give Your Personal Opinion on What Being Happy Means
  • Coping with Depression: What Does It Imply About Happiness?
  • Explain the Implications of Corporate Mergers.
  • Describe Maternity Leave and the Laws that Apply to It.
  • What Are Social Packages, and Why Do They Exist?
  • What Are Start-Ups, and How Are They Measured for Success?
  • What Would an Excellent Income Look Like in Contemporary America?
  • What Ideas and Practices Are Included in Math?
  • What are the responsibilities of a programmer?
  • Explain what heteronormativity is and discuss its history
  • How Might People Interpret the Concept of Brand Loyalty?
  • What Do You Consider to Be Personal and Global Success?
  • What Motivated People to Write Fanfiction?
  • Healthy Sleeping: How Many Hours Are Essential & What Dreams Are Desirable
  • Explain the Concept of Phobias and Define Its Components.

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Tips for Definition Essay Writing Process

Writing definition essay examples may be challenging since it requires creating a comprehensive description of a single term that is both scholarly and personal. Choosing a term that delivers enough information for the essay is important, and there are several traditional methods to ensure you understand what it means. The following rules from our essay writer should be kept in mind to create an excellent definition essay:

Pre-Writing Steps for a Definition Essay

  • Select a word with depth : You want to be informational and bring the new discussion to the table. Therefore, choose a word that is not generic, comes with an interesting background, and has multiple meanings. This way, you have plenty of room for discussion.
  • Use personal experiences : Include personal experiences from your life to provide an original viewpoint on the subject. Let's suppose 'success' is the term picked for the definition essay. You may add your personal experiences to the definition in place of merely referencing the dictionary to offer a distinctive take on the term. You may provide an instance when you succeeded in a certain goal but didn't feel completely satisfied. Then, you may make the case that success isn't just about attaining your goals but also about discovering inner fulfillment.
  • Employ sensory language : You may help the reader visualize the meaning of the term more vividly and clearly by employing sensory language. For instance, with the term 'love,' you may include descriptions of a warm embrace, the delicacy of Valentine's Day chocolate, the sound of a partner's laughing, or the sight of a sunset shared. This will make your definition essay more interesting and memorable while also improving the reader's comprehension.
  • Discuss connotations : Examine the positive and negative associations linked with the term and how they impact its usage. Understanding that words may have emotional implications and meanings beyond their formal definitions is crucial when discussing the good or negative connotations connected with a phrase. For instance, the term 'power' may be used to convey both good traits like strength and influence as well as bad traits like abuse and control.
  • Provide real-life examples : Real-world examples may be a useful tool in definition essays to assist explain and demonstrate the meaning of the term being defined. However, make sure the examples you choose for your essay apply to the defined concept. If you're explaining the word 'success,' for instance, you can decide to include instances of successful people from a variety of industries, including business, sports, or the arts.
  • Be creative : Using creativity may add interest and engagement to your essay. You may, for instance, employ metaphors, illustrations, or personification without restriction. Another method to be creative is to bring comedy and entertainment to your piece of writing.

Definition Essay Examples

To give you a more clear insight into what a good paper should look like, our custom essay service provided a definition essay example below. If you wish to base yours on this sample, feel free to scrutinize how this example is structured and formatted. Or you can always buy essay cheap and with the highest caliber on our platform!

Academic Writing Help

As we come to an end, we hope you gained a deep understanding of the definition essay structure and motivated you to compose your own definition paper. And no, we're not leaving you in the dark with the very first sentence of the article!

The person who didn't know much about the topic tried to impress the people at the gathering by using arguments that were not honest or accurate.

This is what we meant by that opening. So, if you don't wish to end up like such a person who has no clue about certain topics, use our academic writing help to your advantage. Order essay and let us create extended definition essay topics, a definition analytical essay, or any other forms of writing for you so that you may never feel confused and uninformed.

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  • How to Write a Definition Essay

A definition essay can be deceivingly difficult to write. This type of paper requires you to write a personal yet academic definition of one specific word. The definition must be thorough and lengthy. It is essential that you choose a word that will give you plenty to write about, and there are a few standard tactics you can use to elaborate on the term. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when writing a definition essay.

Part 1 of 3: Choosing the Right Word

1: choose an abstract word with a complex meaning. [1].

A simple word that refers to a concrete word will not give you much to write about, but a complex word that refers to an abstract concept provides more material to explore.

  • Typically, nouns that refer to a person, place, or thing are too simple for a definition essay. Nouns that refer to an idea work better, however, as do most adjectives.
  • For example, the word “house” is fairly simple and an essay written around it may be dull. By switching to something slightly more abstract like “home,” however, you can play around with the definition more. A “home” is a concept, and there are many elements involved in the creation of a “home.” In comparison, a “house” is merely a structure.

2: Make sure that the word is disputable.

Aside from being complex, the word should also refer to something that can mean different things to different people.

  • A definition essay is somewhat subjective by nature since it requires you to analyze and define a word from your own perspective. If the answer you come up with after analyzing a word is the same answer anyone else would come up with, your essay may appear to lack depth.

3: Choose a word you have some familiarity with.

Dictionary definitions can only tell you so much. Since you need to elaborate on the word you choose to define, you will need to have your own base of knowledge or experience with the concept you choose.

  • For instance, if you have never heard the term “pedantic,” your understanding of the word will be limited. You can introduce yourself to the word for your essay, but without previous understanding of the concept, you will not know if the definition you describe is truly fitting.

4: Read the dictionary definition.

While you will not be relying completely on the dictionary definition for your essay, familiarizing yourself with the official definition will allow you to compare your own understanding of the concept with the simplest, most academic explanation of it.

  • As an example, one definition of “friend” is “a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.” [2] Your own ideas or beliefs about what a “friend” really is likely include much more information, but this basic definition can present you with a good starting point in forming your own.

5:  Research the word’s origins.

Look up your chosen word in the Oxford English Dictionary or in another etymology dictionary. [3]

  • These sources can tell you the history behind a word, which can provide further insight on a general definition as well as information about how a word came to mean what it means today.

Part 2 of 3: Potential Elements of an Effective Definition

1: write an analysis. [4].

Separate a word into various parts. Analyze and define each part in its own paragraph.

  • You can separate “return” into “re-” and “turn.” The word “friendship” can be separated into “friend” and “ship.”
  • In order to analyze each portion of a word, you will still need to use additional defining tactics like negation and classification.
  • Note that this tactic only works for words that contain multiple parts. The word “love,” for instance, cannot be broken down any further. If defining “platonic love,” though, you could define both “platonic” and “love” separately within your essay.

2:  Classify the term.

Specify what classes and parts of speech a word belongs to according to a standard dictionary definition.

  • While this information is very basic and dry, it can provide helpful context about the way that a given word is used.

3: Compare an unfamiliar term to something familiar.

An unfamiliar or uncommon concept can be explained using concepts that are more accessible to the average person.

  • Many people have never heard of the term “confrere,” for instance. One basic definition is “a fellow member of a profession, fraternity, etc.” As such, you could compare “confrere” with “colleague,” which is a similar yet more familiar concept. [5]

4:  Provide traditional details about the term.

Explain any physical characteristics or traditional thoughts used to describe your term of choice.

  • The term “home” is often visualized physically as a house or apartment. In more abstract terms, “home” is traditionally thought to be a warm, cozy, and safe environment. You can include all of these features in a definition essay on “home.”

5: Use examples to illustrate the meaning.

People often relate to stories and vivid images, so using a fitting story or image that relates to the term can be used in clarifying an abstract, formless concept.

  • In a definition essay about “kindness,” for example, you could write about an act of kindness you recently witnessed. Someone who mows the lawn of an elderly neighbor is a valid example, just as someone who gave you an encouraging word when you were feeling down might be.

6: Use negation to explain what the term does not mean.

If a term is often misused or misunderstood, mentioning what it is not is an effective way to bring the concept into focus.

  • A common example would be the term “courage.” The term is often associated with a lack of fear, but many will argue that “courage” is more accurately described as acting in spite of fear.

7: Provide background information.

This is when your research about the etymology of a word will come in handy. Explain where the term originated and how it came to mean what it currently means.

Part 3 of 3: Definition Essay Structure

1: introduce the standard definition..

You need to clearly state what your word is along with its traditional or dictionary definition in your introductory paragraph.

  • By opening with the dictionary definition of your term, you create context and a basic level of knowledge about the word. This will allow you to introduce and elaborate on your own definition.
  • This is especially significant when the traditional definition of your term varies from your own definition in notable ways.

2: Define the term in your own words in your thesis.

Your actual thesis statement should define the term in your own words.

  • Keep the definition in your thesis brief and basic. You will elaborate on it more in the body of your paper.
  • Avoid using passive phrases involving the word “is” when defining your term. The phrases “is where” and “is when” are especially clunky. [6]
  • Do not repeat part of the defined term in your definition.

3:  Separate different parts of the definition into separate paragraphs.

Each tactic or method used to define your term should be explored in a separate paragraph.

  • Note that you do not need to use all the possible methods of defining a term in your essay. You should use a variety of different methods in order to create a full, well-rounded picture of the term, but some tactics will work great with some terms but not with others.

4: Conclude with a summary of your main points.

Briefly summarize your main points around the start of your concluding paragraph.

  • This summary does not need to be elaborate. Usually, looking at the topic sentence of each body paragraph is a good way to form a simple list of your main points.
  • You can also draw the essay to a close by referring to phrases or images evoked in your introduction.

5: Mention how the definition has affected you, if desired.

If the term you define plays a part in your own life and experiences, your final concluding remarks are a good place to briefly mention the role it plays.

  • Relate your experience with the term to the definition you created for it in your thesis. Avoid sharing experiences that relate to the term but contradict everything you wrote in your essay.

Sources and Citations

  • How to Write a Definition Essay. Provided by : WikiHow. Located at : . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
  • Table of Contents

Instructor Resources (Access Requires Login)

  • Overview of Instructor Resources

An Overview of the Writing Process

  • Introduction to the Writing Process
  • Introduction to Writing
  • Your Role as a Learner
  • What is an Essay?
  • Reading to Write
  • Defining the Writing Process
  • Videos: Prewriting Techniques
  • Thesis Statements
  • Organizing an Essay
  • Creating Paragraphs
  • Conclusions
  • Editing and Proofreading
  • Matters of Grammar, Mechanics, and Style
  • Peer Review Checklist
  • Comparative Chart of Writing Strategies

Using Sources

  • Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Formatting the Works Cited Page (MLA)
  • Citing Paraphrases and Summaries (APA)
  • APA Citation Style, 6th edition: General Style Guidelines

Definition Essay

  • Definitional Argument Essay
  • Critical Thinking
  • Video: Thesis Explained
  • Effective Thesis Statements
  • Student Sample: Definition Essay

Narrative Essay

  • Introduction to Narrative Essay
  • Student Sample: Narrative Essay
  • "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell
  • "Sixty-nine Cents" by Gary Shteyngart
  • Video: The Danger of a Single Story
  • How to Write an Annotation
  • How to Write a Summary
  • Writing for Success: Narration

Illustration/Example Essay

  • Introduction to Illustration/Example Essay
  • "She's Your Basic L.O.L. in N.A.D" by Perri Klass
  • "April & Paris" by David Sedaris
  • Writing for Success: Illustration/Example
  • Student Sample: Illustration/Example Essay

Compare/Contrast Essay

  • Introduction to Compare/Contrast Essay
  • "Disability" by Nancy Mairs
  • "Friending, Ancient or Otherwise" by Alex Wright
  • "A South African Storm" by Allison Howard
  • Writing for Success: Compare/Contrast
  • Student Sample: Compare/Contrast Essay

Cause-and-Effect Essay

  • Introduction to Cause-and-Effect Essay
  • "Cultural Baggage" by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • "Women in Science" by K.C. Cole
  • Writing for Success: Cause and Effect
  • Student Sample: Cause-and-Effect Essay

Argument Essay

  • Introduction to Argument Essay
  • Rogerian Argument
  • "The Case Against Torture," by Alisa Soloman
  • "The Case for Torture" by Michael Levin
  • How to Write a Summary by Paraphrasing Source Material
  • Writing for Success: Argument
  • Student Sample: Argument Essay
  • Grammar/Mechanics Mini-lessons
  • Mini-lesson: Subjects and Verbs, Irregular Verbs, Subject Verb Agreement
  • Mini-lesson: Sentence Types
  • Mini-lesson: Fragments I
  • Mini-lesson: Run-ons and Comma Splices I
  • Mini-lesson: Comma Usage
  • Mini-lesson: Parallelism
  • Mini-lesson: The Apostrophe
  • Mini-lesson: Capital Letters
  • Grammar Practice - Interactive Quizzes
  • De Copia - Demonstration of the Variety of Language
  • Style Exercise: Voice

definition essay

How to Write a Definition Essay

definition essay what

Wondering how to write a definition essay? Well, this task won't be an issue for the students who know this paper differs from other types of assignments, such as an expository essay definition or a narrative essay definition. Even though most academic papers require thorough research and difficult terms, the definition essay is slightly different. It doesn't require substantial scientific knowledge and technical skills — its primary goal is to define a specific term. According to our essay writers , the problem is that you can't just copy the definition from the dictionary. Instead, you need to use your writing skills and creativity.

When writing a definition essay, it's highly recommended that you show your personal opinion, just like in a definition analytical essay, about the term being described and provide some real-life examples. In the following article, you will get all the ins and outs of how to write a definition essay. Our essay paper writing service experts will provide you with some useful tips on how to make your definition paper interesting and informative. Here is what you will learn from the article:

  • How to write a definition essay
  • How to select the right topic 
  • How to define the complex terms in your definition paper 

If you stick to the tips provided in this article, writing a definition essay will become an easy and fun task for you. We guarantee you'll complete it without trouble in the shortest time. Alternatively, you can pay for college essay and relax. So, let's delve deeper into the nuances of writing an excellent definition essay.

What Is a Definition Essay

Simply put, a definition essay clearly describes the term supported by facts, examples, and arguments. The definition essay aims to define a specific term, concept, or idea. Such an essay should not be limited to a dictionary meaning — it should contain an extended definition. The main idea here is that you expand the readers' knowledge and give them new information about the word being described. You need to focus on providing your readers with the information they can't find in a regular dictionary. On the other hand, a definition argument essay, just like an argumentative essay definition, aims to convince the reader of something while simultaneously defining a subject. It necessitates the development of an argument for definition essay themes that center on an ill-defined or controversial subject.

what is definition essay

Definition Essay Structure

Sticking to a specific structure is especially important when writing a definition paper. Proper essay structure is very helpful when presenting your ideas in an order that makes the most sense to the reader. Usually, the structure of a definition essay is very similar to the structure of other creative assignments, such as a synthesis essay , explanatory essay, and other types of essays. 

definition essay what

Definition Essay Outline

When talking about a definition essay structure, the first thing that comes to mind is a definition essay outline. An outline is a plan of your definition paper. Its primary goal is to organize the main points into paragraphs so it'll be easier for you to write the essay. Creating an outline is not as difficult as it may seem at first glance. It consists of the same parts as any other academic paper, which are:

  • Introduction

Thesis Statement

  • Body Paragraphs

How to Start a Definition Essay

The definition paper starts with an introduction. Keep in mind that your essay introduction should include several crucial elements. First and foremost, you should start your paper with a clear explanation of the term you chose to describe. The best way to do that is to find a dictionary definition of the concept (make sure to use only credible sources). This way, you establish context and a foundational understanding of the word.

You may wonder what to do if the chosen term has several meanings. In this case, professionals from different writing services recommend picking the meaning you like most and adding your personal view on the term you will explain. Then, try to give your interpretation of it.

Another idea worth implementing is mentioning something intriguing at the beginning of the essay. Let your imagination run wild — it can be a curious fact, a famous quotation, shocking statistics, a short anecdote, or even a real case regarding the topic.

Overall, the introduction should be brief and informative. Finally, it should conclude with a precise thesis statement, explaining what the essay will discuss with your readers. 

A definition essay does not have a regular thesis statement since the one who is writing it doesn't need to prove anything. If your goal is to write a good definition paper, then you just need to add a primary assertion of your work to the last sentence of the introduction section. Your thesis statement should just define the term in your own words. 


The body of the definition essay helps you think of the essay argument in different ways and look at the term from a different angle. What's great about such an essay is that you can think of the chosen theme from various perspectives. In the end, you will probably pick the easily understandable one.  

You can create two, three, or more body paragraphs in your definition essay — it all depends on the complexity of the chosen term and your writing skills. Provide as many facts about the chosen word as possible. In addition, you can provide a few meanings of the word if necessary for a better understanding of the subject.

A broad investigation and deep understanding of the topic are also highly recommended when working on a definition essay. Focus on making your readers aware of all the contextual interpretations of the term. Try to uncover all the essential facts about the word. Even though definition papers must be based on facts, sharing your personal vision on the subject is highly welcomed. What we can suggest here is looking through numerous different sources, including books, dictionaries, scholarly articles, educational websites, etc. The main idea here is to develop a deep understanding of the topic before you begin writing your paper. 

Writers from our custom essay writing service prepared some useful tips you may follow when writing the body of your essay:

  • A new idea is always a new paragraph
  • If the term that is being defined has several meanings, you better explain them all
  • Use examples from your life
  • Provide various points of view to support the core information


A definition essay must have a proper conclusion. As mentioned before, the main goal of your work is to provide your readers with a complete definition of the chosen term. Your conclusion must summarize the information that was outlined in the essay. 

You may describe how the word you chose influenced your life. Readers love intriguing facts from other people’s lives and appreciate the sincere attitude. You can also rephrase the thesis statement and make a larger statement about the term in your conclusion. 

Definition Essay Sample

Definition essay topics & ideas.

One of the challenges you may face when writing a definition essay is choosing the right topic. Whether you choose to write a freedom definition essay, or discuss personal definition of your life experiences, you should be interested in the subject and familiar with it. A great essay topic will capture your reader's attention and make them read your piece until the end. Try to discuss terms with broad definitions in the extended definition essay topics. Avoid words that have only one meaning. It would be great if someone from your circle of friends had a similar experience in the matter you are going to define. 

The great news is that today there are plenty of terms to describe. Although some words are crystal clear and don't require an explanation, many abstract and scientific terms can still become a topic of discussion. For example, such concepts as love, happiness, trust, and empathy may be difficult for some people to explain. Check out some useful tips on how to choose the proper topic for your definition essay:

  • Try not to use general words that don't have hidden meanings
  • Make sure your essay is based on facts
  • Add a list of references 
  • Choose topics that are familiar to you

Typically, there are two types of terms students usually choose when writing a definition essay: concrete and abstract definitions. Let's take a look at each of the following:

  • Concrete concepts - describe concrete terms, such as people, places, things, events, etc. For some students, it is much easier to describe concrete words than abstract ones. There are tons of concrete things to write about - almost everything that surrounds us in real life. What's more, when choosing to describe concrete terms, research is happening to be much easier, as there are a lot of known facts in history, science, and so on. Some examples of concrete concepts are cat, table, pen, phone, painting, tree, cake, cup, etc.
  • Abstract concepts - refer to an idea or concept that doesn't exist in the real world (physically) and cannot be touched. Students who describe an abstract concept should be ready to use their imagination and brainpower. In most cases, describing abstract nouns is a bit more complicated than describing concrete nouns. On the other hand, describing something abstract brings so much excitement! Imagine how fun it may be to describe something you can't see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. Some examples of abstract nouns include liberty, love, anger, freedom, generosity, charity, democracy, etc. 

Tips on How to Write a Definition Essay

Once you have chosen a term you would like to describe and have researched it, the next step is to select the way to describe your subject matter. Even though there are dozens of ways you can define the chosen term, your goal is to think about how to describe it in a decisive and precise manner. Use your vocabulary and creativity. Imagine if the reader had no other sources aside from your definition paper. Your essay is all he or she has to acquire information about the term. After readers have read your essay, they should be able to have a clear understanding and assurance that now they understand what you are talking about and can explain the term in their own words.

Top 3 Ways to Describe the Term

  • Defining a term according to historical facts. One of the ways in which you can describe the chosen word is by using historical facts and events in order to support your point of view. Try to describe the subject from its roots and origin. 
  • Defining a term according to its use. Another great way to describe the subject matter is to explain why it’s important in our daily lives. As it often happens, sometimes describing how the thing works and impacts our lives is enough to understand its meaning. 
  • Defining a term based on a comparison. You can also describe something by comparing it with the same class of words. For instance, you can emphasize what sets the subject apart, how it stands out, and what makes it special. Compare it with other words of the same class and point out differences. This distinction often clarifies the definition.

More ideas to consider when writing a definition essay:

  • When explaining a term, try not to blatantly copy its standard dictionary definition. Instead, focus on providing readers with your own definition of what is being discussed. 
  • Select terms or concepts you understand or the ones that have had an impact on you personally. Do not try to define a difficult term for you to understand. By doing so, you will only confuse your readers and fool yourself. Think of a definition that would be uniquely yours. Don't be afraid to give non-standard explanations — that approach will give you good results.
  • An effective way to describe a term is by explaining its functions and structure. You can even try to define a term by specifying what it does not mean. 
  • If the chosen term has a broad meaning, try to narrow it down. For example, you may need to write many pages to define the term 'love' adequately, but if you limit your topic to 'self-love,' it will be much easier to craft your definition paper.
  • Another thing worth considering when writing an essay is proofreading. The best thing about the proofreading stage is that it allows you to eliminate numerous mistakes and take a fresh look at your writing. If you can, show your essay to your parents or a friend. Maybe they will notice any grammar or lexical mistakes you didn't see. We are all human beings, and nobody is perfect. Creating a list of references and running your essay through plagiarism detection software are also recommended. When drafting a list of references, you can adhere to the Chicago Citation Style, MLA, or APA Citation Styles.

Examples of Definition Essays

Take a look at some possible topics for your next definition paper. Note that the examples below are about abstract concepts. When writing a definition paper, you can explain a concrete concept as well. It’s all up to you!

Example 1. What is Fame

People interpret the concept of fame differently. Some associate it with wealth, others — with celebrities, richness, something important and well-known. You can use great anecdotes or even movies that devote to the matter to an extent. Do you know any famous people? How do people explain fame? When can you say about the person that he or she is famous? Do you want to be famous? These are the kinds of qualitative questions that are interesting to delve into because of the theme.

Example 2. Explain the Concept of Kindness 

There is a famous proverb by Mark Twain that goes: “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see” – do you agree with it? Explore this concept of kindness. What counts as kindness, towards ourselves and other people, and which behaviors might seem like kindness but do more harm than good? Is being kind the same as being nice? Try to find a definition of kindness that you can get behind and support with your reputable facts. 

We hope we managed to explain how to write a definition essay. Now you know how this type of academic paper differs from other essays and what writing style and format to choose when preparing such an assignment. You can start with simple terms and then try to explain more complex words. Practice makes perfect, and you will definitely improve your writing skills with time. 

Tips and ideas outlined in this article are tailored to enhance your writing and help you get better grades. However, if you experience some difficulties with this task, our team of professional writers is always ready to help you create a first-class definition essay from scratch. To buy essay , all you need to do is visit our website and select the type of essay you require. Welcome to our cost-effective service! All you need to do is visit our cheap essay writing service website and select the type of essay you require. Welcome to our cost-effective service!

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Definition Essay: A Powerful Guide to Writing an Excellent Paper

A definition essay is a type of academic writing that explains what a term or a concept means.

What Is a Definition Essay?

What a definition essay is a piece of writing (see all essay types ) that explains what a term or a concept means. Some words have definite, concrete meanings, such as glass, book, or tree. Terms such as honesty, honor, or love are abstract and depend more on a person’s point of view.

A definition essay can be evaluated from the direct, or exact meaning and the point of the subjectivity of the person defining the term. The aim is not only to provide a dictionary definition but also elaborate on why the word is defined in such a manner. The approach depends on the subject, readers, and the essay’s purpose.

3 Steps to a Powerful Definition Essay

When you start writing a definition essay, follow 3 main steps.

Definition Essay

Choosing Ideas for Writing a Definition Essay

Choosing the definition is a key step in writing a definition essay. You need to understand the term used for your definition paper and make sure it’s easy-to-understand by others. Read the dictionary, but don’t just copy the definition. Explain the term’s meaning briefly in your own words. Besides, it is important to limit your term before you start defining it. For example, you could write forever on such definition essay topics as “love”, “money”, “power”, or friendship. To limit it, you would write about either “romantic love,” “platonic love,” or “first love.” If you are assigned to write a definition essay here is a great list of definition essay topics:


If the definition essay topics from the list above don’t match your assignment and you need another topic for definition writing, feel free to contact our writing service. You can also read an article on How to Pick Proper Essay Topics.

How to Write a Definition Essay: Outline and Format

The definition essay outline format is similar to that of a typical essay and includes several unique characteristics. Typically, it includes the introduction, body, and conclusion parts. A definition essay is a good option when you want to learn about the classic college essay structure. Here is a detailed focus on each section.

Definition Essay: Introduction

Start with one of the various techniques, such as a short anecdote, a peculiar fact, a quote, or an open-ended question. Your introduction should conclude with a clear, precise thesis statement that tells your readers just what the essay will discuss. All body paragraphs directly support the thesis statement. The thesis statement usually identifies the term being defined and provides a brief, basic definition.

If you are looking for essay examples here is a great one below: 

The Impact of Social Media in Our Daily Lives Smoking in Public Places Should Be Banned

Definition Essay: Body Paragraphs

Create a thorough definition. There are several ways on h ow to write a definition essay about a certain term. Here are a few options.

Use understandable facts, examples, or anecdotes. Select the ones that can fully explain your definition. Ask yourself, “Which examples will best help readers understand the term? What examples would most appeal to my readers? Will a brief story reveal the term’s meaning?” Do not use any examples that will not support the definition.

Definition Essay: Conclusion

Restate the thesis statement in other words. Give an overview of the main points of the paper, referring to the entire body paragraphs. Link back to the attention grabber to conclude your essay.

The Dos and Don’ts of a Powerful Definition Essay Writing:

Dos and Donts of a Definition Essay Writing

Need a definition essay? Our writers have experience in all types of essays writing, including a definition essay. Place an order today to get your definition essay on time.

Definition Types Frequently Used in Essays

Just as you pick a term or concept to define, a question might arise – which type of definition, exactly, could help you define a chosen term in the best possible way?

We’d like to recommend you 7 types of definitions you can use to write your essay:

  • Analytical: Analyze the term by breaking it down into the smallest elements and define each of the elements in particular. 
  • Classification: Define a term from the point of view of classes to which a term or its elements belong.
  • Comparison: Compare and contrast several terms or concepts, or their constituent parts against each other.
  • Details: Each term can be defined based on its peculiar details or characteristic features. 
  • Negation: It’s a witty move to define a term by explaining what it isn’t. 
  • Origins & Causes: Define a term or concept by describing its origins, historical background, and causes.
  • Results, Effects, & Uses: Define a term by telling about its causes, results, effects, and possible uses. 

Now let’s move on from theory to practice. 

We’d like to share a couple of useful definition essay examples and examples for your inspirational and practical writing needs as well as provide some nifty hints and tips.   

Definition Essay on Love

Everyone wants to love and be loved. Love is the most powerful feeling we have. If you can’t decide which topic to choose, always go for Love. Should you offer readers an interesting perspective on love (e.g., Causes & Effects of Love from the Point of View of Neurochemistry ), you’ll definitely hit the right chords with your definition essay.    

Check out 5 interesting love definition essay topics to write about in 2023:

  • Love vs Hate: What Do These Feelings Have in Common?
  • Mother’s Love
  • How Love Affects the Way We Think and Behave?
  • What Is True Love? 
  • Stages of Love as a Chemical Process Inside Our Brain

Have a look at a love definition essay example for you to use for your inspirational and reference needs.  

[Definition Sample]

Happiness Definition Essay

What is happiness? For someone, happiness is to love and be loved. For others, happiness is being rich and being able to afford things other people can’t. And for some of us, happiness is freedom: freedom to love, freedom to self-express, and freedom to be who we are. 

Everyone sees happiness differently, and that’s why this topic is so interesting to define. 

Here are some of the examples of happiness definition essay, which will definitely inspire you:

  • Happiness Is a Chemical Process
  • What Causes Happiness?  
  • How to Be Happy?
  • The Secrets of the Happiest Man on Earth
  • Marital Happiness  

In case you’re interested, we’ve prepared a couple of happiness definition essay samples you can read and get new ideas for your own essay.

[ Definition Sample -1 Definition Sample-2 ]

Family Definition Essay

Our family is the closest people we have in this world. People we love and people we’re happy with. Some of us didn’t have a family and some of us have pretty large and close families. Family is a broad concept and can offer you a plethora of topic options to choose from.

Some of the most inspiring family definition essay topics are the following:

  • 2023 Core Family Values
  • Why Do Families Break Up?
  • How to Be a Parent in Your 16s?
  • The Perfect American Family
  • American vs European Family Values
  • My Family Values 
  • How to Grow up Having no Family?
  • Being a Single Parent
  • College & Parenting 

If you need a good example of a family definition essay, we’ve just got what you need!

[ Definition Sample ]

Freedom Definition Essay

We as Americans do love our freedom! We celebrate it, we cherish it, and we fight for it against everyone who wants to take freedom from us. But what freedom is for some of us, for others is anarchy and vice versa, especially in 2023. 

The First Amendment grants us the freedom of belief, the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom to petition the government if our freedoms are violated.

Check out the most inspiring freedom definition essay topics to take into consideration in 2023:

  • The Bill of Rights and The First Amendment
  • Freedom vs Anarchy
  • What’s a Lawless State?
  • Rioting and Looting as Perversion of Freedom 
  • What Socialism Is and What Democracy Isn’t 
  • Freedoms They Took Away From us During COVID-19 Pandemic 
  • Restriction of Liberty

Our essay writers prepared some freedom essay samples you can download for free.  

Easy Definition Essay Topics

On one of those slow days, you need nothing more than an easy definition essay topic. 

These definition essay topics are as easy as they can get:

  • Importance of College Education
  • Trump vs Biden 
  • My First Love
  • Communism vs Capitalism  
  • Who Is a Hero of the Day?
  • Most Well-Paid Jobs in 2023
  • My Definition of Success? 
  • Definition of a Good Essay 
  • My Perfect Date 
  • First Day at Work 

These topics are so easy you don’t want to even have a sample. Just sit down and do some good buy college essays online in the evening. 

Extended Definition Essay Topics

An extended definition essay deals with broad terms only. If a term or concept has only one meaning or connotation, it couldn’t be used for the purposes of an extended definition. 

Sounds a bit confusing? Then let’s see a couple of extended definition topics so you could easily make sense of it faster. 

  • The Government Is Watching Us
  • Marvel Antagonists Aren’t All Bad “People”
  • Trump Isn’t Too Awful a President 
  • The Many Faces of Generosity
  • Why the Rainforests Destruction Should Be Prohibited?
  • What Feminism Really Isn’t 
  • CIA Actually Operates on the US Soil 
  • How to Be Rich?  

BTW, an example of an extended definition essay is available right here!

Definition Essay Ideas for Business

Is an MBA your major? Then there’s a 100% chance that you’ll have to write a definition essay on business or two! Focus on such subjects as e-commerce, startups, investments, Forex, cryptocurrency, macro and microeconomics, etc. 

It might be a good idea to write your definition essay about:

  • Karl Marx, The Capital  
  • How to Explain the Meaning of Blockchain to a 60-year-old?
  • YouTube Economy
  • How Do Banks Work?
  • South African Economy 
  • Deming’s 14 Points of Total Quality Management
  • Essentials of Capitalism 
  • Who Are the 1%?
  • How to Start Your First Blog?
  • The Concept of Tax Evasion 

A great business definition essay example is available right here!

Definition Essay Ideas for Science & IT

Programming used to be a closed club for nerds and tech-gurus who did everything from fixing broken Xeros to creating a web-site or developing accounting software. 

Today we have web-coders, software developers, programmers, Scrum masters, project managers, hackathons, startup culture, incubators, and plenty of other IT-related terms you can define in an essay. 

Here are some of the topics about Science and IT that might inspire you:

  • Lean Startup
  • MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
  • Where to Start Learning Programming?
  • Programmers vs Developers 
  • Major Types of Web Coding Languages 
  • 5 Most Well-Paid IT Jobs in 2023
  • How Hindu Programming Code Is Different?
  • Modern Coding Patterns
  • Python vs Java 
  • What Is GPU?
  • What Is a Processing Core?
  • Big Data Analysis 

An example definition essay on Science & IT is available for you to read and use for writing your own composition.  

Have neither time nor desire to write any definition essay? It’s time to call our skilled and talented college writers and order your custom definition essay for an affordable price!

Persuasive Essay

The primary purpose of persuasive essay is to persuade or convince the reader that a certain claim or viewpoint is right. A persuasive essay can be written from either a subjective or an objective point of view simply because persuasion is found in a variety…

Full list of the most trending argumentative essay topics

Top-50 topics you would love to work on PLUS useful tips on writing a flawless argumentative essay. As you may already know, an argumentative essay is a writing genre where the student establishes a position on a given or chosen topic and then uses evidence…

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How to Write a Definition Essay

Last Updated: April 13, 2023 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Alexander Ruiz, M.Ed. . Alexander Ruiz is an Educational Consultant and the Educational Director of Link Educational Institute, a tutoring business based in Claremont, California that provides customizable educational plans, subject and test prep tutoring, and college application consulting. With over a decade and a half of experience in the education industry, Alexander coaches students to increase their self-awareness and emotional intelligence while achieving skills and the goal of achieving skills and higher education. He holds a BA in Psychology from Florida International University and an MA in Education from Georgia Southern University. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, several readers have written to tell us that this article was helpful to them, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 448,634 times.

A definition essay requires you to write your own definition of a word. The definition must be thorough and well supported by research and evidence. You may have to write a definition essay for a class or try it as a writing challenge to help improve your English skills. Start by selecting and defining the word. Then, create a draft that presents a detailed definition using references and sources. Polish the essay when you are done so it flows well and does not contain any grammatical errors.

Selecting the Word

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 1

  • You can also pick a concept like “Success,” “Friendship,” or “Faith.”
  • Concepts like “Pain,” “Loss,” or “Death” are also good options.

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 2

  • You can try taking a concrete object and using a similar word to make it more open-ended. For example, the word “house” is concrete and obvious. But the word “home” is more open-ended and allows you to create your own definition of the word.

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 3

  • For example, you may choose a word like “success” because you are familiar with the word and feel you may have a lot to say about what it means to be successful or to feel success in your life.

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 4

  • For example, you may choose a word like “pain” because you feel there are a variety of meanings for the word based on who you talk to and how they experience “pain” in their lives.

Defining the Word

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 5

  • For example, if you look up the word “justice” in the dictionary, you may get this definition: “noun, the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness.”
  • You can then determine that “justice” is a noun and can be compared to other terms like “righteousness” and “moral rightness.”

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 6

  • For example, you may look up the word “justice” in an online encyclopedia that focuses on philosophy or law. You may then find information on Western theories of justice and how it became an important concept in Western history and the legal system.

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 7

  • Look on academic search engines like Google Scholar, JSTOR, and ProQuest for scholarly articles.
  • You can also look for educational videos that have been made about the word on YouTube and other video websites.

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 8

  • “What comes to mind when you think of the word?”
  • “How do you feel about the word on a personal level?”
  • “How do you interact or deal with the word?”
  • “What does the word mean to you?”
  • Take notes or record the interviews so you can use them as sources in your essay.

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 9

  • For example, you may write: “Justice, a quality or trait where you act in a morally right way.” Or you may write: “Justice, a concept in the legal system where the fair or equitable thing is done, as in ‘justice has been served.’”
  • It's important to have tact and tread carefully here. It's important to preface your own definition of the word, making it clear that's a personal opinion. Make sure not to create the misconception that your own definition is the accepted or official one.
  • At the end of the day, your objective should be to write the actual definition, and not an opinion essay.

Creating an Essay Draft

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 10

  • Your thesis statement should appear in the introduction and conclusion section of your essay.

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 11

  • For example, you may write, “According to the Oxford Dictionary, justice is a noun, and it means: the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness.”

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 12

  • For example, you may have a thesis statement like, “According to my research and my personal experiences, justice is a quality or trait where you act in a morally correct way.”

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 13

  • For example, you may write, “Justice comes from the Latin jus , which means right or law. It is a commonly used concept in politics, in the legal system, and in philosophy.”

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 14

  • For example, you may discuss how justice works as a noun or an idea in politics, the legal system, and in philosophy. You may also discuss what the “quality of being just” means in our society.

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 15

  • For example, you may talk about how justice is similar and also not quite the same as words like “righteousness” and “equitableness.”
  • You can also discuss words that mean the opposite of the term you are defining. For example, you may contrast the word “justice” with the word “injustice” or “inequality.”

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 16

  • For example, you may write, “On a personal level, I view justice as an essential concept” or “Based on my own experiences, I think justice is blind and often does not serve those who need it the most.”
  • You can also include personal experiences of the word based on interviews you conducted with others.

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 17

  • Make sure you follow your instructor’s preferred citation style, such as MLA , APA , or Chicago Style .

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 18

  • Look at the first sentence in each section of the paragraph to help you gather your main points.
  • Include a last sentence that has a strong image or that describes a key phrase in your essay.

Polishing the Essay

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 19

  • You should also check for any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors in the essay.

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 20

  • Be open to constructive criticism from others and take their feedback to heart. It will only make your essay better.

Image titled Write a Definition Essay Step 21

  • If there is a word count or a page count for the definition essay, make sure you meet it.
  • Include a reference page at the end of the essay and a cover page at the beginning of the essay, if required.

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About This Article

Alexander Ruiz, M.Ed.

To write a definition essay, choose a word that describes a concept or idea. Look up the dictionary definition, the origin of the word, and any scholarly essays or articles that discuss the word in detail, then use this information to create your own definition. When you write your paper, introduce the term and the standard dictionary definition of the word, followed by a thesis stating your own definition. Use the body of the paper to include historical information and explain what the word means to you, then conclude by restating your thesis. For tips on picking your word, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Definition of essay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

  • composition

attempt , try , endeavor , essay , strive mean to make an effort to accomplish an end.

attempt stresses the initiation or beginning of an effort.

try is often close to attempt but may stress effort or experiment made in the hope of testing or proving something.

endeavor heightens the implications of exertion and difficulty.

essay implies difficulty but also suggests tentative trying or experimenting.

strive implies great exertion against great difficulty and specifically suggests persistent effort.

Examples of essay in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'essay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Middle French essai , ultimately from Late Latin exagium act of weighing, from Latin ex- + agere to drive — more at agent

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Phrases Containing essay

  • essay question
  • photo - essay

Articles Related to essay

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To 'Essay' or 'Assay'?

You'll know the difference if you give it the old college essay

Dictionary Entries Near essay

Cite this entry.

“Essay.” Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of essay.

Kids Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

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Nglish: Translation of essay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of essay for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about essay

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