How to write a definition essay

How to write a definition essay Step By Step Guide

An essay is a piece of writing concentrating on a specific topic or concept. Essay writing may not be as straightforward as writing an introduction, body, and conclusion. The assigned essays help learners to broaden their knowledge or show their prowess in a given area. The structures, styles, and strengths of your points determine the success in writing an essay. Different types of essays adopt distinct formats and content, making some essays more complex than others.

What is a definition essay?

To define is to give meaning to a word, topic or concept. Therefore, a definition essay is a piece of academic writing that gives meaning to discrete concepts or ideas. One may write an essay about what success is, what family or happiness is and so forth. At a glance, the topic may seem easy but can you use concrete ideas to write a sufficiently long essay? Therefore, before embarking on writing a definition essay, one has to adequately prepare. Consequently, you will have a flow of information instead of starting to fish for ideas in the middle of your essay. A definition essay is detailed since it not only highlights the meaning but also informs the reader and even cites examples.

Steps on how to write an effective definition essay

Reaching the desired number of words does not necessarily mean that you have written a perfect essay. How, then, does one ensure that the definition essay submitted meets its purpose?

Step 1: Choose the right word

A definition essay requires that you use your perception to make points out of a given topic. Choose abstract words as opposed to concrete ones since there is an opportunity to explore the complexity of the latter. For instance, it is more thrilling to write about hope than to write about a child. As for the child, you will mostly use commonly known knowledge. In writing a definition essay about hope, there are a lot of directions you can take. Therefore, choose a word that eliminates the boredom of existing knowledge. The thrill of a definition essay is the ability of different people to differ in opinions regarding the same word. Hence, choose a word from which a variety of essays can be written, depending on the writer’s opinion.

As much as you want to pick something complex, ensure it is a word you are knowledgeable about. The dictionary may give you the definition but it is up to you to write the rest of the content. Therefore, choose a word you are comfortable writing about and even use illustrations. Do you understand the history of the word you intend to write about? The history will give you rich content from where to draw your ideas.

Step 2: Identify the most ideal element of your definition essay

To define a word you can use different methods such as analysis, classification, comparison, details or illustrations. If your word requires analysis, split it into different parts and analyze each part in a separate paragraph. Additional definitions come in handy while defining the separate parts. The analysis tactic is applicable for words with multiple parts as opposed to a single part word. Classification entails putting words into their respective grammatical parts of speech and then writing about each part.

Comparison is another way of writing your definition. It involves using comparing strange words to familiar ones. This way, your audience can relate your essay to something they can easily understand. You can also use traditional characteristics to explain your word in a way that people can relate to it. For instance, traditionally, the night is associated with evil and unpleasant activities. Such a word will create a picture of what point the writer is driving home. Additionally, illustrations help you to define a word easily. You can give a short story about someone who instilled hope in you. Another way of defining a word is by using negation. By adopting this trick, you use opposite words to explain what your terminology does not mean.

You can also provide a piece of background information that will help relate the origin of the word to its current meaning. Therefore, a writer has different ways of making their definition, depending on the words or ideas at hand. Choosing the most appropriate approach makes it easy for the writer to exhaust the different points he or she intends to highlight.

Step 3: Follow the definition essay structure

Like any other essay, a definition essay has three parts; introduction, paragraph body, and conclusion. However, each essay has to be more specific when it comes to the content in each of those three parts. We shall have an overview of how to write each part to produce a powerful definition essay.

How to write a definition essay introduction

Remember that a definition essay aims at giving meaning to a word or idea. Consequently, before you can dig deeper into your topic, you should explain what the word means. You can use the definition available in the dictionary; choose the one that suits what you want to write about. Your introduction should be eye-catching for the reader to continue with the rest of your work. You can use an anecdote, joke, statistic or open-minded question. If you begin your essay on a high note, the reader will anticipate reading what is next. Therefore, you should work on getting the introduction right. Other than defining the word, you also need to end your paragraph with a thesis statement. This is the statement on which the rest of your arguments will be based. The thesis statement should be brief yet a highlight of what your word entails.

Body paragraphs

The body of your definition essay should be divided into three paragraphs. However, thy can be more depending on the nature of your assignment. In the first paragraph of your definition essay body, you can give the history and origin of the word. Here, you need to be more detailed for one to understand the choice of your word. In the second paragraph of the body, give the dictionary meaning of the word and how it is used. As you can see, this is the reason you need a word with multiple meanings. It enables you to define the term and still be left with the ability to comfortably make your definition. This takes us to the third paragraph of your essay’s body that entails personal definition. Form all the definitions available in the dictionary, there is one that suits what you intend to discuss. Give your meaning backed up by a relevant story or illustration.

Thorough research helps you to be rich in content to write in your paragraphs. In your definitions, be as expansive as possible and use examples to explain your points further. Being vague shows that you do not understand your word properly. Therefore, ensure that you use precise illustrations that blend perfectly with your chosen word. If the word is expansive, you can further split the parts into various paragraphs to ensure that you leave no stone unturned.


In the conclusion paragraph, you are not to introduce new concepts or ideas regarding the word you were defining. Make a summary of the points you have discussed and also redefine your thesis statement. Therefore, your conclusion is not expected to be long since it is only a summary. In this paragraph, you can identify how the word in question has impacted you. For instance, if you were discussing hope, how has that changed your behavior? You can mention how being hopeful or instilling hope in others has affected your overall character. Writing this part should not be difficult since you chose this specific word for a reason. You most likely, have an encounter that drove you towards the topic you are writing.

Post writing tips

We have evaluated the crucial steps before and while writing an effective definition essay. We now need to look at what else is required after you have written your essay. Ensure that you have properly referenced the work as per your professor’s instructions. Despite requiring personal opinions, one also requires to use the most credible sources and cite them correctly. Also, do not forget to proofread and edit your essay. Spelling, punctuation and typing errors can cost you regardless of how rich your content is. You can further seek proofreading help from a friend or a professional company. Someone else is more likely to spot your mistakes.

Definition essay words

Below is a list of words that have wide definitions and points of view that you can write comfortably;

  • Hopelessness
  • Infidelity
  • Love
  • Marriage
  • Joblessness
  • Honesty
  • Hope
  • Family
  • Wisdom
  • Beauty
  • Loneliness
  • Friendship
  • Good leadership
  • Happiness
  • Positive attitude
  • Heroism

As earlier mentioned, you should choose abstract words as opposed to concrete ones. The complexity of abstract words creates a wide avenue for you to explore. However, your writing is not necessarily limited to the above words. There are tons of terminologies than a writer can venture into, depending on personal experiences. The more disputable a word is, the more exciting it is to use for your definition essay.

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