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Home » Blog » How to Write a Definition Essay: Definition, Topics, Example, and Outline

How to Write a Definition Essay: Definition, Topics, Example, and Outline

You come across a new word that does not have a significant meaning for you. The word seems quite interesting and so you decide to confirm its meaning in the dictionary.

After conducting several online types of essays research, you finally get a logical understanding through a definition essay task.

Great, you have just increased your knowledge! But you could also be struggling on how to write a definition paragraph?

Some words are deep and complex few sentences or words can describe it. Some even require hundreds of words to explain them.

This is what definition essays are all about!

What Is A Definition Essay?

A definition essay is a paper gives a detailed explanation of a specific word; as a composition, a few words cannot fully describe it.

It has to be complex but common to people.

For instance, “love.” Although it is often used, it is quite hard to describe it meaning; it needs an entire essay to give the right universal representation of its meaning.

The common definitions used in a definition essay:

  • Analysis- divides the main word into various small segments and defines each segment independently.
  • Classification- does the subject belong to any class of words? If yes, which one?
  • Details– what descriptive characteristics does the definition essay that is not found in the other papers?
  • Causes and origins– where you get your theme, ideas, and information from
  • Results, uses, and effects– discuss the uses and after effects of the subject

Some interesting definition essay topics include:

  • Definition essay on success?
  • Describe love?
  • Describe heroism?
  • Definition essay on family
  • What is friendship?
  • Explain the meaning of beauty
  • How can you define loyalty?

These are the frequently asked essay definitions on coursework and tests. There a multiple words you can define in a single essay; the target is to pick is to choose the one that you can portray or explain comfortably.

Essay Outline Form

The outline of a definition outline differs in length depending on the particular word you are given.

Just like in how to start an expository essay and how to write a rhetorical analysis, you will find some words are “easy to understand” than others.

Still, others require you to carry out intense research analysis to formulate them well. However, all of them must follow the classic format of an introduction, body, and conclusion.

Steps of Writing a Definition Essay

  1. Select The Word

If your instructor has not given you a specific word to write about, the initial step will be to pick a good word.

It could be about “patriotism”, “feminism”, “loss”, “death”, “pain”, ‘friendship”, “family” etc.

  • Avoid the concrete things and objects- it is hard to describe the concrete words like “ball,” “shoe” or “pencil.” Instead, convert the concrete word to an open-ended word. For instance, change “house” to “home,” and then write a definition essay about home.
  • Choose the word you are familiar with -your essay will be better if you select the words that you know well.
  • Pick the word with multiple meanings- ensure that your word can be explained in different ways, this will allow you to include your wording for better interpretation. For instance, you can use the word “pain” to explain different experiences.     
  1. Define The Word

Use a dictionary-Before you put down the various explanations of your word, carry out thorough research. Write all the definitions you have gathered.

Familiarize yourself with each of them and classify your words into different categories then note any synonyms.

Use encyclopedias – the encyclopedia will help you to find the origin of your selected word. It will also provide you with a list of concepts and ideas to address while writing. Go through all the theories that are connected to the subject.

Use online articles, videos, and websites– look for the academic or scholarly articles that describe the subject in details just like a how to write a lab report for biology. Some websites and blogs address words in a better way than others do: hence, you should be keen on what you settle for.

  • You can use the academic search engines such as JSTOR, ProQuest, and Google Scholar.
  • Use video websites like YouTube to look for the educational videos that describe the word.

Interview family, friends, and peers– to get a more personal perspective of the subject, ask your relatives or friends about their definitions opinions of the word. Ask them these questions:

  • “How can you describe this word?”
  • “What comes into your mind when you hear about it?”
  • “How do you deal with this word?”
  • “Do you have any personal feeling brought by this word?”

Record or take notes of the interviews for future reference

Find your own definition– Even without researching; you must have your opinion about the specific word. Focus on its effect on the world, and compare it to any close words. Write down all the thoughts.

  1. Create the Definition Essay Draft

Typically, an essay should have three main sections: the introduction, body, and conclusion.

However, some instructors may want you to write a single paragraph or even more than the three paragraphs. Confirm with your supervisor before you start.

Introduce your term– start your definition essay by informing your readers about the term. Since you have already done the research, it will be easy for you to cite the references. For instance, you could write “according to Oxford dictionary …”

Write a thesis statement-your thesis should be in the first part of your essay. It should show your perspective towards the word; therefore, you need to add your own experiences in the definition.

Keep the sentence long, informative, and use passive voice only. For instance,” according to personal experiences and research….”

Discuss the origin and the history of the word– you should mention the root of the word in the second part of the essay. Use academic articles and encyclopedias to find the origin of the words and cite them as evidence.

Analyze the word definition written in the dictionary– carry out a deep analysis of the term as written in the dictionary. Pull apart the definition, interpret, and explain it in your own words.

Rephrasing will allow you to get other meanings. For instance, you can discuss the meaning of a word as a noun, an idea, or even a philosophy. Remember state how the word is used to the society.

Compare the word with similar terms– if there are other words with the same meaning as yours, name them. Talk about the slight difference between them and the circumstances under which each is used.

For instance, consider using a term such as “equity” if you are writing about “righteousness.” You can also contrast words with opposite meanings such as “justice” for “injustice”

Describe your personal definition– go back to your original definition of the word that you recorded. You should put the words on a personal experience level. Besides, consider the ideas you gathered from your friends and put them in a logical manner.

For instance, you can write, “in my view…” or “based on my personal encounters…”

Support your definitions with references and evidence– make sure that you quote your sources accordingly to back up your work. You can site journals, online resources or even past articles. For the conducted interviews, include the specific words and quote them. Apply the same technique in how to write a literary analysis thesis and how to write a reaction paragraph. or try our undergraduate essay writing service. See how it works and contact us if you have any questions.

Be keen on the citation style – some instructors may request you to use APA, MLA Chicago citation style.

  1. Definition Essay Conclusion

The conclusion part should wrap up all the ideas you have talked about. You can give a brief restatement of the word using a standard definition. Lastly, remind the users about your personal view of the word by restating the thesis.

  • The conclusion should only sum up the ideas you have already talked about in the essay- do not introduce anything new at this point.
  • Use the first sentences of the paragraph to assist you in gathering the main points.
  • Your last sentence should be strong and describe only the significant phrases of the entire essay definition.
  1. Polish Your Essay

Once you are done with drafting the essay, start reading it aloud. For better polishing, call your close friend or colleague to listen to you.

If you notice any awkward phrases and lines, underline them for revision. Check that the spelling, punctuation, and grammar are all correct.

Feedback– your peers or friends should give a feedback of what they think about the essay. Let them ask questions and give suggestions of what you should have done to make it better. Take advantage of our write my essay now services as well.

Revise– fix the mistakes you have noticed.

  • Remove the unclear and redundant sentences and add only what is relevant.
  • Make sure that your essay has both the cover page and the reference page.

Common mistakes of writing a definition essay

  • Forgetting to emphasize your subject
  • Writing the obvious; what people already know
  • Ignoring the importance of including examples
  • Copying other people work without accreditation

Check out our Capstone Project Guide, Movie Review Essays, and Narrative Essay.

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