In a definition essay, you explain the meaning of a certain term by giving a detailed description of it, and support your definition with clear examples or facts. Such explanations are needed if a term is special, abstract, disputed, or does not have a common meaning. For instance, individuals can interpret the definition of the words ‘freedom’ or ‘abuse’ quite differently.
Steps for Writing a Definition Essay
- Choose a term you want to define, and introduce it to your readers. This can be done in several ways, but your main goal at the outset is to indicate the contents of your paper clearly.
- Use several sources (dictionaries or encyclopedias) to see how the term you have chosen is usually defined. Then, think of a way to combine or merge them to give your own, unique definition.
- Present the term you’ve chosen to your readers in the introductory part of your paper.
- In the main body paragraphs, provide your readers with information about the term. Along with your own description, you can point out some cases in which this term is used, as well as historical information about its origins and the evolution of its use in literature. Also, you can highlight any common mistakes in its definition.
- Think of a couple of sound examples that will fully illustrate and explain your definition.
Definition Essay Topics
There are plenty of terms we use every day. Many of them are clear to almost everybody, but still there is a vast body of abstract or scientific terms that can become a topic of discussion. While all of us know what a phone, TV, or dog is, concepts such as happiness, faith, love, or calmness may be difficult for some people to grasp. Some terms that could be chosen as a topic for your definition essay are listed below:
- Real estate
- Good and evil
Key Points to Consider
- Giving a definition is not just copying what has been written in other dictionaries. If you cannot define a new meaning for some concept on your own, then use the definition that already exists, but give your own interpretation of it.
- Choose terms you understand, or ones that have impacted your own personal experience. Do not try to define a term you don’t understand, or else you will confuse your readers with the wrong explanation.
- You can define a term by explaining its functions, structure, or nature. You can also define the term by specifying what it does not mean, or by comparing it with other members of the same class of words and emphasizing the differences.
- Follow a determined structure. It would be logical to present your term in the introduction, give extended explanations in the main body paragraphs, and end with brief conclusions.
Do and Don’t
Common Mistakes When Writing a Definition Essay
– Trying to define a term that is too broad in scope for the essay.
– Forgetting to emphasize the term that one is defining. In this case, it may be hard for readers to understand what your essay is ultimately about.
– Writing about terms that are well-known and which do not have conflicting interpretations.
– Ignoring the necessity of examples. No matter how detailed and clear your definition is, without concrete examples, it may be difficult for readers to understand how or when a certain term should be used.
– Copying the existing definition word-by-word. Instead, reinterpret the meaning. Do not be afraid to use your own thoughts for a new, unique definition.
Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic definition essay writing tips and rules, you can check out our definition essay samples to link theory with practice.
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Samples for Writing a Definition Essay
What is Heat?
Titanic, however, is no soulless junket into techno-glop wizardry but rather a complex and radiant tale that essays both mankind's destructive arrogance and its noble endurance.
—thr staff, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Titanic': THR's 1997 Review,"19 Dec. 2017
That combination is perfectly suited to his Christmas Tree-O project, which sanguinely essays holiday themes—both classic and schmaltzy—with gusto and ardor.
—peter margasak, Chicago Reader, "Drummer Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-O deftly walks the line between sincerity and kitsch with its stroll through holiday hits,"8 Dec. 2017
Daria channeled her struggle into a college admissions essay that talks about losing herself in literature to cope with moving from hotel room to hotel room after Sandy.
—megan friedman, Seventeen, "This Incredible Girl Bounced Back From a Hurricane to Get Into 7 Ivy League Schools,"20 Apr. 2015
Both Lively and Bilson opted for youthful, dressy shorts, while Chung essayed the season's maxi hemline.
—veronique hyland, Harper's BAZAAR, "Chanel Cruise 2012: Karl's Seaside Crossing,"9 May 2011
Macmillan doesn’t make W the easiest person to live with, and Brooke essays a lovably irritating presence.
—marcus crowder, sacbee.com, "Theater review: Breathe in the post-modern air of ‘Lungs’,"24 May 2017
Azais, who scored a Cesar award for his performance in 2014’s Love at First Fight (Les Combattants), here essays a coming-of-age transformation that essentially attempts to reunite Vincent with his mother.
—justin lowe, The Hollywood Reporter, "‘A Taste of Ink’ (‘Compte tes blessures’): Film Review | COLCOA 2017,"16 May 2017
Arthur Nikisch essayed one with the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1919.
—david allen, New York Times, "A Long Party of Concerts to Celebrate Anton Bruckner,"13 Jan. 2017
Acceptance of the prize constitutes permission for Sponsor and its agencies to use Winner’s name and/or likeness, biographical information, [and/or essay, photograph, etc.
—ew staff, EW.com, "The Walking Dead,"29 June 2017