How to Write a Definition Essay

What is a definition essay

No matter what your major is, a professor may assign you to write a definition essay. It is easy to guess that in this kind of academic assignment a student must define the meaning of a certain term or phenomenon. What for? In every field, there are specific terms that one must acknowledge and be able to apply correctly. Once you read a definition, you can understand and remember it, but there is no guarantee that you’ll use it appropriately.

To emphasize the importance of practicing definition essay writing let me show the examples of terms that you could be asked to define in your paper. Generally speaking, there are words that have only one precise meaning, and words that have broad and controversial meanings. If a friend asks you “What a tree is?” you may give a simple and brief answer: this is a plant, that typically has a single stem or trunk and bears lateral branches at some distance from the ground. But is it possible to give a comprehensive definition to such phenomena as “generosity”, “stagnation”, “duality”? Not really. Many scholars vary in their definitions of these and other terms.

It is completely okay that your own definition of the term will not be unambiguous. That is why the main goal of this writing is to gather different shades of meanings and analyze their usage.

Definition essay outline

If you’re about to write this kind of essay for the first time, you are very likely to get confused. Where should you start from? What to write? My mind is blank! Well, don’t panic. There is a reliable plan for the writing of any college paper and a definition essay in particular.

As any academic paper, start writing it from your definition essay outline. An outline is a set of key ideas that will form your essay in the future. During definition essay writing certain steps must be done:

Choose a definition

Look up in the dictionary for the definition you’d like to write about.

Come up with a thesis of definition essay

E.g., “hero” is a person who is famous for his noble deeds. “Love” is a deep affection for another person. “Home” is a permanent place for living.

Choose your definition approach

For instance, you can compare the term to other members of its class and then illustrate the differences.

Support your arguments with understandable facts, examples, or anecdotes.

How to write a definition essay

An outline is a skeleton of your essay. It should include only the key ideas. After you finish the outline, revise it. Then ideas on how to improve it will come at once. Don’t forget to format citations as required by your institution. Otherwise, citations will be detected as plagiarism and your paper won’t be accepted. Also, keep to the assigned word count. The more is not always the better.

If there is 550-word limit, don’t exceed it.

In conclusion, you must restate your thesis of definition essay in different words. Don’t give any new information in the last paragraph. Just summarize the main points of the evidence indicated below and come to a general conclusion that will directly respond to the thesis statement.

Whatever essay word you choose, you should be interested in its meaning and be familiar with it. It would be great if you had your personal experience in the matter you are going to define. To write this kind of essay, you may use not only dictionaries and other academic sources, asking your friends and family to define the term is also possible.

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