How to Write a Definition Essay: Writing Guide with Sample Essays


What Is a Definition Essay?

This type of paper entails writing a formal explanation of a single word. It is important to remember that this is an essay, so you will most likely not be able to choose a simple term that can be described in a few words.

A definition essay is intended to describe a complex term with significant background and historical origins that is also a relatable term. The word “love” is an excellent example of such a term, as it appears impossible to explain this concept in a few words. This allows us to write a definition essay about it and give it an accurate representation.

Types of Definitions Commonly Used in Essays

So you’ve discovered an intriguing term with a complicated backstory that’s worth delving into? Consider what you can do with it before deciding to make it the subject of your definition essay.

Here are some approaches to your definition essay:

  • Analysis: Divide the subject into parts and define each element separately.
  • Classification: To which class does the problem belong?
  • Comparison: Unusual things can be identified by demonstrating how similar or dissimilar they are to usual things.
  • Specifics: What are the characteristics and other distinguishing features of the paper’s concept?
  • Negation: Describe what it isn’t in order to narrow down what it is.
  • Origins and Causes: What is the theme’s origin? What is the historical context? What is the origin of the concept?
  • Results, Effects, and Applications: Describe the subject’s aftereffects and applications.

Interesting Topics

Now that you understand what a definition essay is, it’s time to choose a topic. It is critical to consider an interesting topic that will pique your reader’s interest. Your goal is to make the topic interesting so that the reader does not dismiss it as mundane and continues reading. We have some topics for you to think about, which are organized into general categories. Feel free to choose any of them and twist it around if necessary.

Definition Essay on Love

The most wonderful feeling in the world is love. Talking about love, especially defining it, can be a difficult task, so brace yourself and look at the topics we’ve suggested. Despite its complexity, a definition essay on love is the most popular subject for defining terms in academic papers.Compare Love and Hate. Which one is the stronger emotion?

  •  Is there a universal definition of love?
  •  The relationship between love and other emotions
  •  Parental affection
  •        The relationship between love and passion

Happiness Definition Essay

Everyone in their lives feels happy at some point. It is known as a strong emotion that makes life worth living, whether it is a brief moment or a continuous feeling. Because it is familiar and relatable, a happiness definition essay is a good option to consider.

  • Defining happiness through personal experience
  • The insignificance of money
  • Where did the term “Parlay” come from?
  • How can happiness be obtained?
  • What is the polar opposite of happiness, and why is it so?

Family Definition Essay

In a family definition essay, you can either define some family values, its members, or other related things. It is a very versatile topic because it is relatable to any reader out there. Make it sound personal and include the family traditions and values you hold most dear, in order to achieve the expected result.

  • American society’s ideal family traditions
  • The 21st-century family and its values today
  •  Arranged marriages and child marriages
  •  The Benefits and Drawbacks of Early Parenting
  •  Single-child families
  •  The influence of family on education and career choice
  •  Television’s role in family communication

Freedom Definition Essay

Freedom comes in many forms, including freedom of choice, freedom of expression, and free will. In an essay about freedom, you can not only define it, but also debate whether there is too much or too little of it, or discuss freedom in various settings and societies. A definition of freedom essay is a common assignment in American schools. You may be able to combine history and culture to be successful with this one.

  • Being free & being truly happy
  • Prisoners vision of freedom
  • Explaining the word “freedom” through slavery
  • The movement for freedom
  • The role of the American Civil War in formulating the term “freedom”
  • Reasons why people should not obtain full freedom

Easy Definition Essay Topics

When you are in doubt which topic to choose—because they all seem too complicated—refer to our list of easy topics. They allow you to talk about things you are very familiar with as a college student; writing them will be a piece of cake.

  •  Characteristics of a hero based on characters from Pride and Prejudice
  •  Using the “Queen” story as an example, describe success.
  •  What, and why, makes someone a villain?
  •  On-campus vs. at-home conditions
  •  The role of a university degree in modern life
  • Create an Antihero
  • Examine the meaning of the word “Beauty.”
  • What qualifies someone as a Hero?

Extended Definition Essay Topics

In extended definition essay topics, only words with broad meanings should be discussed. Avoid using terms with a single meaning. These topics enable you to have a very elaborate argument with a wide range of ideas.

  •  Punishment measures used by parents to maintain a healthy family
  • Distinctions and similarities between self-assurance, self-development, and self-management
  • Characteristics of a generous person
  •  Evidence that the FBI violates the rights of US citizens
  •  The definition and application of the term “frenemy”
  •  Several characteristics that indicate a selfish person
  •  Techniques for dealing with laziness and the consequences of doing so
  •  Identifying protagonist traits based on Marvel films
  • What are the defining attributes of Royalty?

Definition Essay Ideas for Business

Interested in a business major? Here is a list of topics for essays that are both easy and interesting to write about. Even if this isn’t the case, economics, business, and e-commerce have a plethora of fascinating terms to explain. Among the best suggestions are:

  • Causes & effects of an economic recession
  • The development of e-commerce
  • The role of statistics in business
  • How to define an appropriate salary
  • Things that social packages include
  • Production and producers
  • Business management & marketing
  • How to explain the meaning of a start-up
  • Types of marketing advertising

Definition Essay Ideas for Science & IT

Here are some additional definitions related to information technology and science. They could be useful if you want to talk about future innovations and predictions.

  • The programming language of tomorrow
  • The World Wide Web / Internet
  • Operating systems (Mac, Windows, etc.)
  • Different types of telecommunication
  • Pros and cons of e-learning
  • Computer data & information
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Automated home systems

These are just a few examples of definition essay topics, as well as questions commonly asked on tests and coursework assignments. The goal is to select the best essay topic that you, as a student, feel most comfortable explaining and portraying.

Pre-Writing Steps

  1. Choosing a Proper Term

When selecting a topic, choose a word that is not simple and does not have a solid precise definition. A word with a specific meaning won’t leave you with much room to write about. When your word has an abstract meaning, you can write a lot about it. Nouns that refer to a person or a place should not be used in a definition essay. Although they are simple to define and describe, these topics do not have much potential.

✅Term “Writing”

  • It gives you more leeway
  • There are several ways to describe it‍

⛔️Term “Pencil”

  The term is too concrete

  Has no deeper meaning to delve into

  1. The Word Should Be Multi-Dimensional

This means you must select a word with multiple meanings for different people. For example, the word “love” evokes different emotions and associations in different people. A definition essay can be a very subjective endeavor because it allows the writer to present their own interpretation of the subject. However, you should avoid the meaning that everyone else has of your subject because it may only confirm other people’s feelings and knowledge while presenting no new arguments.

Terms “Hello” or “Telephone”

  • It is possible to expand on the definitions of these terms.
  • It is far preferable to begin with a more complex term.
  • Words with dual meanings are especially intriguing to investigate.‍

️Term “Desk”

  Has no dimensionality to it

  Can mean only couple of things

  Has no deeper meaning

  1. Choose a Word That You Know Well

It is extremely difficult to write an essay on a word that you simply picked up from a dictionary. You must have personal experience with it or a thorough understanding of the term you are defining. It is always preferable to use a word that you are already familiar with. This gives you leverage to elaborate on the subject and demonstrate your authorial credibility.

Term “Intimacy”

  • Write about a term that has meaning in your life.
  • You may appear to know what you’re talking about.‍

️Term “Thermodynamics”

  • You most likely learned the term in Physics class
  • The reader will not be able to relate to it
  • You will most likely sound overly scientific and potentially boring.‍
  1. Use the Word’s Background History

A word’s origin, or etymology, has a historical reason for being what it is. Make sure your readers are aware of this, as it plays a significant role in the word’s current usage. Investigate the term’s history by using dictionaries and online resources to expand on the general definition. Your findings should be included in your definition paper.

Definition Essay Outline

Every essay should follow the traditional Intro-Body-Conclusion format. The introduction, according to the definition essay structure, should address the central question with a thesis statement.

Because your outline is a draft for your actual paper, it must be meticulously planned. As building blocks for your paper, you must include your main points and highlights. Your outline will help you create a well-organized essay while also ensuring its high quality.

However, depending on the term, the body of a definition essay outline may vary in length and should include all of the writer’s points. The conclusion should summarize all of the main points and speculate on possible future associations with the word.


The introduction of a definition essay serves two purposes. You must provide a standard, or most common, definition of the term. You can do so by looking it up in a dictionary or on the internet. If a word has multiple meanings, choose the one that best fits your ideas and proceed from there. As with any other essay, you must include a “attention grabber” to ensure that your reader is piqued and eager to continue reading your essay. It could be a famous quote, a joke, statistics, data, or simply a fun fact about your term.

Then, proceed to your thesis statement, keeping the original meaning of the word in mind. It is critical to stick to this strategy in order to avoid confusing the reader and to have a logical, coherent flow to your paper.

Thesis Statement

The introduction includes your thesis statement. The thesis statement for a definition paper is your interpretation of what the term means. This can be a combination of the standard explanation, your own personal experiences, and your preferred interpretation style. Keep it brief; don’t go into too much detail in this section. This is where you move into the main body of the paper.

Body Paragraphs

A definition essay typically has three body paragraphs. We recommend that you organize them as follows:

An example of a good body paragraph structure:

  Body Paragraph 1: History and Origin

  Body Paragraph 2: Full dictionary explanation and use.

  Body Paragraph 3: Personal definition created from experience.

In the body of your essay, break the term down into its constituent parts. Analyze the term from various perspectives and provide a relevant explanation. Depending on the nature of your assignment, more than three paragraphs may be required.

However, feel free to modify this format in any way that best suits your word, as you can add more paragraphs or switch the order around depending on the complexity of your word.

Remember that as a writer of a definition essay, you must jot down all of the expansive definitions available to you in order to provide the reader with the full range of your term’s beauty and depth. It is your responsibility to conduct extensive research and fully comprehend it. You must provide examples to back up your claims, as well as express your opinion and share any personal experiences you may have had.


Keep the conclusion short and sweet. The main goal here is to summarize the main points of your argument. Restate your thesis, as well as the main points of your explanation, and summarize everything you said in the body of your definition paper.

The final point to include in your definition paper outline is how this term has affected you. If you were writing about the concept of love, for example, you could say that falling in love and expressing that love to another person made you more compassionate. It influenced your character positively and revealed a new side of yourself to you. Before even beginning to write an essay, there is usually a reason a specific word is chosen, and part of that reason has to do with personal experience—in this case, falling in love.

How to Write a Definition Essay: Video Guide

The final point to include in your definition paper outline is how this term has affected you. If you were writing about the concept of love, for example, you could say that falling in love and expressing that love to another person made you more compassionate. It influenced your character positively and revealed a new side of yourself to you. Before even beginning to write an essay, there is usually a reason a specific word is chosen, and part of that reason has to do with personal experience—in this case, falling in love.

Post-Writing Tips

Now, we’d like to give you some pointers on what to do after you’ve finished your paper.

  • References. Choose the most appropriate references and make sure to cite them in the format specified by your professor. Failure to follow these rules may result in you being accused of plagiarism and receiving a lower grade overall.
  • Proofread and Edit. Remember to proofread your completed essay to ensure there are no typos. Checking your spelling and grammar can significantly improve your grade and keep it from dropping in the first place. After you’ve proofread the paper, you can make any changes that will help your essay. Don’t forget to read your paper aloud—your ears can detect errors that your eyes may miss.
  • Sources. Keep in mind that the quality of your essay is determined by the sources you use. Never use inappropriate sources or sources that do not appear to be academic in nature. You appear unprofessional as a result of this.
  • Research. Once you’ve chosen credible and academic sources, double-check that their research was done correctly. Do not rely solely on one dictionary, but rather use several to show your words from various angles. Combining a few good dictionaries will provide a comprehensive picture of the word and cover the entire range of semantic meanings.
  • Quoting. It’s very tempting to cite your definition word for word. However, you should avoid doing so because it will bore the reader from the start. It also demonstrates your inability to paraphrase and express concepts in your own words, which may result in a lower grade.

Definition Essay Examples

Here are some examples of definition paragraphs for college students. Take note of the structure of these papers. If you want to use the same structure and format for your paper, you can use any of these definition essay examples as a definition essay template.

Definition Essay Example: What Is Success?

Success means different things to different people. To critically define the true meaning of success – perhaps the first and most important realization that any person can make – there is no single defined formula that outlines the path to personal success.

Definition Essay Example: Who Is a Hero?

For the longest time in history, the term “hero” has been in common use. Most fairy tales, such as those produced by Disney, revolve around the title. In some cases, the term “hero” is used as a compliment.