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How to Write a Definition Essay

What is a Definition Essay, topics, Outline, and Examples

Your success or failure in writing this type of essay depends on if you understand what is a definition essay?

So what is a definition essay?

It is a writing that requires you to write a personalized, but still an

academic definition of a particular word.

It explains what a word means in a thorough and lengthy way.

When writing a definition essay, avoid terms that have definite meanings such as cup, cat, ball or house.

Go for terms like love, peace, honesty or success whose meaning is abstract

and depends on one’s opinion.

How to Write a Definition essay Step by Step

Definition essay writing

Tell the reader the complex term you want to define: 

Selection of the term or word you can be done by your professor

You will need to be meticulous in selecting a definable term if not given in class.

Avoid nouns since they have a definite meaning.

Consider words that have multiple meanings or whose meaning depends on an individual

Different people perceive multidimensional words differently

Choose a term that you are familiar with.

A word that correlates well with you is easier to write about.


Present thorough and clear information:     


After conducting some basic research, present information on the term.

Include how different people from different backgrounds understand the term.

Use sources such as dictionaries, books, and encyclopedias for research.

Think of how to combine the leaned definitions with your personal definition


Write the outline and format of the definition essay:       

The outline of a definition essay is similar to that of a normal five paragraph essay

Include the introduction, body and conclusion of the definition essay.

Write the introduction paragraph:         

The introduction follows the basic format of a typical essay.

Use examples, anecdotes and facts to make it interesting and understandable to the reader.

Include the extended definition

The last sentence of the introduction should be a strong thesis statement.

Thesis statement tells your reader what to expect in the body paragraphs.

Each body paragraph should support the thesis statement.


Definition essay Conclusion:   

The conclusion restates your argument

It helps emphasize the most important point in your argument.

Definition essay outline example

Definition essay writing

  • Analytical approach to definition essays

    This is the most preferred way of writing this kind of essay.

    It demonstrates to your tutor that you are an accomplished thinker and a writer.

    In this approach, you will be trying to break down the word from its breadth, length, width, and depth.

    You try to make you reader grasp every aspect then give them a fitting conclusion.

  • Classification Approach:

    Defining a complex word may only require you to classify the word and your readers will get a clear picture. Answering such questions as “to what category does the word fall?” may most likely enlighten its meaning to the reader even though not as a full analysis would do.

  • Comparison Approach:

    A comparison approach may also be minimalism if compared to a full-fledged analysis.

    However, the readers need to see how the word compares with related words. For example, defining “equal” by comparing it to the word “similar.”

  • Detailed Approach:

    Lay out the specific details or attributes unique to the word you are defining.

    For instance, the word mentioned above, “equal” has such details as similarity, fairness, virtue, generosity, selflessness, peace, and so forth.

  • Negation Approach:

    If a word is complex, then it is better distinguishing it from assumptions that it is not.

    It is like comparing it to what seems to explain the word but is actually not. Your work is to a clear the air for your readers.

  • Cause and Origin definition essay

    You are asking such questions as, “how did the word come to be?”

    “From what historical theme did it gain significance?” and so forth. The reader would understand how the origins and causes associated with the word shaped its meaning.

  • Results, Effects, or even Uses in a formal definition essay writing 

For example how love affects others, or how it accomplishes interpersonal relations can make its definition clear.

Examples Definition essay topics

Here are examples of words that always invoke heated debates when asked about their true definitions.

  • Love
  • Virtue
  • Satisfaction
  • Time
  • Intelligence
  • Equality
  • Loyalty, etc.
  • Independence
  • Downshifting
  • Tsunami
  • Politics
  • Lie
  • Lawer
  • Terrorism
  • Dependence
  • Weakness
  • Power
  • Individuality
  • Will

A Final Word 

Being aware of How to Write a Definition Essay is interesting, to say the least. It also stretches your mind in the right academic direction. Two important points to note as you write your definition essay are the balance between academic and personal views. Not forgetting the inclusion of impact of the essay on your life.

Point #1:

A definition essay ditches standard essay writing guidelines.

The use of the first person in writing the essay is to give it a defensible argument.

Blend in the arguments you researched to give your essay credibility.

Therefore find a balance between personal and researched content without giving preference to personal experiences. Remember you are learning How to Write a Definition Essay.

Point #2:

Tell the reader how the uses, effects, and causes of the word made a change in your life.

How it changed your perception of your place in society.

If for instance, you relate to others or what values you currently attach to humanities.

Further reading:

Definition essay introduction

Sample definition essay

Guide to writing a definition essay

funny definition essay topics

Do you want help writing a definition essay? Click the link below to order.

Definition essay writing

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