How to Write a Definition Essay: Types, Topics

definition essay

When working to create a definition essay, it may seem quite confusing and even challenging. Therefore, before we can start talking about how to write a definition essay, let us first explore what it is and what goals it pursues.

This type of work often requires its author to give an academically correct explanation of a meaning of a particular word, adding some personal ideas about it. The provided determination must be logical and thorough. Thus, it is critical to select an object that will allow you to express its concept in a paper that is at least a few pages long.

Below we will present 3 stages of essay definition; each consists of a few simple steps, which will help you create an effective and extended definition essay quickly, avoiding critical mistakes and also plagiarism free.

Check out our another guide how to write a descriptive essay at EssayHub blog.

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What Is A Definition Essay?

To answer your question - "what is a definition essay," remember that it is a paper that explains to its readers the essence of a certain object or phenomenon. In a definition essay, the subject matter should be complicated things that people might interpret differently. An explanation of what a house, pear, or rain is would not fit a definition essay format. A definition paper should be devoted to complex philosophical concepts or contradictory issues.

Many newbies find it challenging and commission the paper to a professional essay writer to save themselves from stress. But there are no reasons to worry! The standard length of a definitive essay is around half a page. Once a student understands what the definition essay requires, they will cope with it effortlessly. 

Such an essay should reveal multiple meanings of the word and focus on one of them. To avoid mistakes, the student should double-check the definitions of the phenomenon that they are planning to write about. The essay might inspire its readers to look at usual things from a different perspective. It might encourage them to become more tolerant or change their attitude toward certain life situations.

The Purpose

When newbies ask, "How to write definition essay?" They most often mean, "How should an essay differ from the vocabulary definition of a word?" First, it is longer and more detailed. Second, it provides more context. The reader gets to know how to assess this phenomenon and which other terms and problems it is connected with. 

The best definition essay examples often focus on controversies. They show why people's opinions might be split about this phenomenon. The writer should remain impartial and avoid supporting any of the opposing points of view. They should back up all the viewpoints with substantial facts.

Types Of Definitions Used In Essay

If the teacher does not specify the type of a definitive essay, students can choose from the following formats.

types of definitions
  • Definition Analytical Essay. Which elements does the phenomenon under discussion consist of? What are the main traits of each of these components? How do they interact with each other? 
  • Classification. What class does the topic of the essay belong to? Is it a typical or atypical representative of this class? How does it differ from the other representatives? 
  • Causes and origins. Who initially came up with this idea? Where, when, and why did it happen? How did the idea evolve over time?
  • Comparison. The author finds common and contrasting traits of several definition essay ideas.
  • Details. The writer focuses on some especially meaningful and unique parameters of the object.
  • Effects, results, and uses. What happens after someone uses the object or applies the idea under discussion? Which changes do they provoke? Are there any side effects?
  • Negation. It resembles comparison to a certain extent. The author enumerates objects that have something in common with the item under discussion. Then, they explain why the latter is not identical to the former. This type of definition does not involve an analysis of similarities.

If the author decides to write a definition of one type, their essay will look more logical. But combining multiple definition types, such as details and comparison, is also possible.

How To Define The Right Topics

Selecting the right subject for your work is half the battle when seeking to create a successful paper. In order for any academic to explain something to other people, he or she must first be aware of what they are talking about. It is very helpful to research one or two definition essay examples before you start writing your work; this will help further develop your understanding and ability to express the idea of this essay. You should also avoid words that have only one meaning. Therefore, try to cover such terms with broad connotations in your extended definition essay topics. These subjects provide you the opportunity to make a very complex argument that covers a wide range of concepts.

So how to choose an excellent definition essay topic?

  1. Look at words that have a more abstract meaning. It is a critical nuance because everyone knows the meaning of the word "college" or "dog," but if you choose a subject with a more complex concept, it will give you more research material. Besides, selecting a simple word with a basic definition will most likely not let you expand its meaning to write a complete paper.
  2. Make sure that the selected subject is controversial. It should be something that different people would define differently. Keep in mind that this task wouldn't be called an essay if you were allowed to merely provide something according to a standard dictionary definition; here, a student must explain the idea of the subject with his own definition and perspective.
  3. Write about something you are familiar with, or you risk failing to explain its meaning to the reader; you must have a good understanding of what you are writing about. For example, in the US, a freedom definition essay is a beloved topic. With this, you might successfully combine history and culture.
  4. Use the dictionary, but do try just to copy the determination; you will need to explain the term briefly in your words, meanwhile comparing your ideas with the "official" definition of it.
  5. Find out more about the essence of the selected term. This way, you will have enough examples and facts to make the work more informative, interesting, and logical.
How to write a definition essay visualization

Interesting Definition Essay Topics

Here is the list of the most common definition essay topics for college. Newbies can practice writing papers on them in advance. It will save them from the necessity to order an essay to get a good grade.

  • Success;
  • Love;
  • Marriage;
  • Family;
  • Friendship;
  • Loneliness;
  • Morale;
  • Ethics;
  • Good and evil;
  • Freedom;
  • Intelligence;
  • Stress;
  • Laziness;
  • Technology;
  • Science;
  • Creativity;
  • Animal rights.

These definition paper topics give both the writer and their readers enough food for thought. They are philosophical and, at the same time, well-connected with everyday life. These notions remain relevant in any era, but people's perceptions of them might differ.

Elements That Should Be Included

elements for definition
  1. In-depth analysis of the term. To give a complete determination of something, a student must first analyze the word or separate parts of the term. Keep in mind that many terms have several meanings; for example, "love" can be between friends, family members, or partners, and this should also be included in your work.
  2. Classify the term. Such information is quite simple and boring but specifying what part of speech and classification the word refers to according to the standard definition in the vocabulary can provide useful context about how the word is used.
  3. Provide both physical and associative characteristics of the subject. For example, the physical characteristics of "home" can be either an apartment or a house where someone lives, but if we look at it from the perspective of associations, we often mean a warm, cozy and safe place.
  4. Use examples to illustrate the determination.
  5. Make a parallel between something well-known and unknown.
  6. Provide general information about where this term was used first, how it gained its modern meaning, and so on (this is the part when your knowledge about the selected term's essence will come in handy).


The most common definition essay template has a 5 paragraph structure which is typical for other essay types as well. The paper should consist of the following parts. In a short essay, the second and the fourth parts can be omitted.

  1. Introduction.
  2. History and origin.
  3. Dictionary definition, context, and use.
  4. Personal definition backed up by the author's life experience.
  5. Conclusion.

The answer to the question "How to start a definition essay?" is simple. The introduction definition essay needs to grab the reader's attention. It should outline the range of all possible meanings of the word and single out the most important one. The writer should explain why they chose that very meaning. 

Also, the introduction should include a thesis statement. A thesis is a digest of the third and fourth points of the above-given structure. The author should briefly mention the main points of the text without going deep into details. The reader should understand whether this paper seems interesting to them.

The history part requires thorough research. The writer should not rely exclusively on their background knowledge. They need to look for facts online and in printed books. They should list these sources at the end of the essay (the importance of this step will be explained in one of the next passages).

Multiple examples of the word's use are an essential feature of a definition essay outline. Here is the easiest way to provide these examples.

  1. Look for examples on the Internet.
  2. Reword them without modifying the main word.
  3. Double-check that all the examples are grammatically correct and contain no semantic errors.

There should be no complicated words in the examples. All the nouns, verbs, and adjectives should be simpler than the main word under discussion. Otherwise, readers might fail to understand the examples. They would pay more attention to unknown terms rather than the central word of the essay.

When speaking about their personal experience, the writer should not turn the paper into their autobiography. Here is how a good defining paragraph example might start. "In my teenage years, I frequently experienced psychosomatic disorders because of stress. But stress did not cause physical fatigue, so I cannot agree with that part of the definition."

The conclusion should summarize everything that was said in the essay. Plus, the author should explain why they chose that very word. Why did it strike a chord with them? Why should other people get curious about it too?

Do’s & Don’ts

In a definition essay thesis, one should avoid such phrases as "It is where" or "It is when." Instead of the former expression, one can say, "It is a place," or "a region," "a sphere," and "an area." Instead of the latter, it makes sense to say, "It is a state" or "a consequence," "a cause," and "a situation." An ideal definition should sound a bit scientific but not over complicated. 

The writer should not copy the definition from an encyclopedia. Instead, they should explain their own vision of the phenomenon under discussion. Reasonable creativity will become an advantage of this type of paper. A good definition essay sample should not be dull and formal.

If certain terms have excessively wide meanings, the writer can narrow them down. For instance, "love" is a very broad notion. The author of a definition argument essay should concentrate on a particular type of love, such as parental.

The writer should never explain a term using the words from it. For instance, they should not say that "adaptive technology is a technology that adapts to a new environment." They need to specify which aspects of this technology can change and why and how they do it. 

All the parts of the essay should be logically interconnected. The author should use transition words. They need to make sure that passages complement but do not contradict each other.

Post-Writing Tips

A definition essay should contain a list of sources used for its completion. The writer should indicate only academic sources that are directly relevant to the paper. They should not mention texts that inspired them but failed to comply with scientific norms. The list of references should be formatted according to the standards of a certain school.

A definitional essay without sources and references would hardly get a high grade. First, it looks unprofessional. Second, the writer needs to prove that they know how to work with references. Third, if they fail to indicate the sources, the teacher might accuse them of plagiarism. 

After the writer finalizes the paper, they should leave it for a couple of hours. Then, they should come back to it and reread it out loud. Their eyes might fail to catch an error, but their ears will. To detect any potential misprints, one should enable spell-check in their word processor.

If there are quotes in the text, the author should consider rewriting them with their own words. Direct quotations will do if they are no longer than just a couple of phrases. Excessive quotes might lower one's grade. Teachers value students' abilities to express themselves.

Hopefully, these tips on writing a definition essay were comprehensive enough. If a student lacks the time or is not confident in their skills, they can get help from college essay service. But relying on the recommendations from this article, one should be able to write an excellent paper without third-party help.

What Pitfalls You May Come Across?

Now you know what a well-written example of a definition essay should look like. However, note that explaining the concept of a word or subject to the readers is not the most challenging stage in writing such a paper; the most difficult thing is to make it more personal and add a bit of individuality to it. To do this, you can mention how a particular term has affected you and what role it played in your life and share your personal experience.

Another difficulty that you can come across is a lack of time or experience. Not everyone can handle academic papers with ease, so if you doubt your abilities, it can be a good idea to find some assistance.

How To Get A Perfect Paper That Would Grant You An A?

Sometimes students are not experienced enough to create a high-quality text for their academic writing that would deserve a high grade, and in this case, asking someone to proofread your essay is a wise decision. If you want to be confident in the success of the work, you can always ask for help at a professional and reliable essay writer service EssayHub. Does not matter whether you want to explore an expository essay definition, or a narrative essay definition, our writers are ready to assist anytime.

Ordering at our essay writing services will not just rid you of an unwanted headache and stress caused by this task but will also guarantee that you will receive instructions from well-versed, proven experts that will bring you the praises of your teacher. We also guarantee that you will receive a compelling essay for your "write an essay online" request.

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