How to Write a Definition Essay

Definition Essay
Writing Guide

What Is a Definition Essay?

A definition essay is a type of essay in which you have to explain the word due to its general meaning, historical background, and cultural perception.

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Step 1 – Choose the Word for Your Definition Essay

definition essay word

To define the word using criteria mentioned above it`s better to choose an abstract term, which has no concrete definition (like a «pen» or «book»). Basically, you choose a concept. Probably, it’s being explained through the history of mankind and has multiple views on the meaning of the word. In general, this is a word which affects moral norms of society.

The complexity of the concept you will define while writing definition essay will influence the length of the essay and quantity of interesting statements you will give.

Nevertheless, don`t define the word which you can`t understand or have no opinion about.

The main thing is to offer your own definition of the word, which rests upon your personal and cultural background.

How to Choose the Word for Definition Essay

Think what worries you, what specific feelings (love, anger, jealousy, hate) have you experienced through life, what is important for you (stability, home, balance) or what social events influenced you or your close people (harassment, bullying, sexism). Then try to define it.

Take the dictionary. Better if it is printed. Open any page and choose any word. Do you have any personal “feelings” about this word? Does it comply with the statements on how to choose an appropriate word mentioned above? If yes, the problem is solved. If no – search again.

Ask somebody to tell you what worries them, what concept they want to understand. If it will interest you, you can make a research on this concept and write your definition essay. Furthermore, the fact that you have to present your definition to your close person will drive you to do it even better.

Step 2 – Research for Definition Essay

word origin

Start with different dictionaries to see what is the takeaway of the word. Compare those definitions, note them in your essay. Search historic origin of the word.

Make an analysis of scientists or philosophers who were trying to define the word you have chosen. You may also try to look for some legal definitions of the word, to show another approach.

Write how the definition of the word changed during different periods or it was constant. You may also defy what factors affected on the word gaining such sense: society, political events or any other reasons.

For example, there are a lot of factors that influenced on what we call “beautiful”. At first, the economy structured the perception of beauty: plump people considered to be beautiful in the 17th century, because it meant that they were rich to buy food and are healthy. Nowadays, it`s generally media, which forms our vision of human beauty.

Now you have gathered overall perception of the world throughout history and outstanding personalities. Move on to the next step in writing definition essay.

Step 3 – Personal Point of View in Definition Essay

personal definition

Have a say: you definitely have some life experience and specific social and cultural background. That`s why it`s important to choose a concept for your definition essay that interests you and you have experienced it. This will make the writing of definition essay easier. Write how you understand the meaning of the word and what factors made you percept it in such way. Share your knowledge and based on it give your own definition.

In this part, you can describe cases, which characterize the word you are defying. The cases have to show why you see the definition of the word for your definition essay in that way but not another. They have to describe and add value to the definition you made upon your personal level of perception.

Step 4 – Finalization of Definition Essay

Summarize everything you have written above. Define the most important things connected with the word for your definition essay. Explain, why you chose this concrete word to defy. For this reason, try to write your definition essay on the words, which are socially or politically import in present. This will make your definition essay strong and will help to stand out.

Common Mistakes

incorrect definition

  • Choosing a too general word. Specify the term which you have chosen. Too general word will make it harder for you to explain and you won’t be able to write each notion in one essay. Or if you take small quotes of each explanation, it will be too vague.
  • Choosing a word which has no meaning for you or you have no idea what it means. Before choosing a word, try to grasp what it means personally for you. If you can formulate your thoughts, start and write your definition essay.
  • Incorrect definition formula. Don’t write “Love it’s when somebody is feeling strong feelings”. First, write to what category of the mental concept the word is related: feeling, state, process, event, etc.
  • Another mistake in the definition is to choose a specific field of the concept and use the concept to explain it. For example, “International conflict is a conflict that…”. Explain the meaning of the word in a whole, including concept and its type.

Topics for Definition Essay

  • Faith
  • Trust
  • Criticism
  • Equality
  • Jealousy
  • Procrastination
  • Inspiration
  • Life purpose
  • Sexism
  • Feminism
  • Beauty
  • Gender
  • Evolution
  • Generation
  • Despair
  • Soul
  • Ethics

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