How to Write a Definition Essay

Writing guide
Posted on July 8, 2022

The main goal of such an essay is to show your readers the definition of the term and its explanation, which should be more than a regular dictionary entry. After you decide that the subject of your assignment requires writing a whole essay on the topic of definition, then you may ask yourself questions:

  • What are the steps in creating an essay definition plan?
  • What are the best topics for this type of essay?
  • Where can I find essay examples?

Essay writing can be a definite challenge for students because some types require really deep knowledge and skills. Others require extensive research. And the third is not difficult at all. Such a task is the topic of this article – an essay definition.

Note! In the process of studying the topic, you will find answers to these questions and will be able to write a well-structured article on a topic given to you or one that you choose yourself.

What is the Definition Essay and Its Purpose?

The concept of an essay with a definition explains itself, based on the name. You write an essay of this type when you need to give an extended full definition of a particular term, concept, word, or phenomenon.

definition essey topic

With the help of this essay, you can also resolve disagreements when it comes to a concept with multiple meanings. A definition essay explains the connotations and uses of a particular term in different contexts. Also in this type of essay, you give examples related to a specific topic.

Several approaches can be used to write this type of essay. You can also use them together, except in special cases. Choose the one that best suits your chosen theme. The approaches are as follows:

  • You designate the dictionary definition of your term;
  • With the help of a connotation, you explain a term that is not included in the scope of the dictionary definition. It may be an expression of a person’s attitude or meaning that the term has acquired over time;
  • Drawing an analogy or making a comparison is an approach when you need to compare two similar concepts;
  • You can use an enumeration when a word or term has many meanings.

The quality of your final essay depends on your level of understanding of the topic and your writing skills. Readers will probably not like an essay on an obvious topic. You should not choose a topic for an essay like “sun”, “book”, “sandwich” and similar primitive topics. It’s a good idea to choose an abstract topic that is difficult for most people to understand. For example, write an essay about love, happiness, freedom, and the like.

What is the Feature of an Essay with a Definition

You might think that these are two identical things – an essay with a definition and the definition itself (as in a dictionary). A couple of sentences only give a general meaning to a concept, term, phenomenon, and so on. But the essay helps to resolve the issue of controversy when one concept has many meanings.

In this text, you inform your readers about possible interpretations and approaches to the term. You show in your essay what features this topic can have or in what contexts it can be used. As a result, the main difference between an essay with a definition and a simple definition is that the essay gives a complete picture of the use of the concept, while the second one simply gives a basic dictionary explanation.

Definition Essay Plan

Any essay as a type of academic writing has its own components that are important to keep in mind if you want your essay to meet the criteria. There are standard parts in the definition essay structure as in any other type of essay: term paper, abstract, research paper, and other types of essays. To write an essay with a definition, you also need a plan. In it, you will highlight the main elements that you will explain throughout the text.

Pro tip

The easiest way to write an essay is to write one sentence for each paragraph that highlights your idea, that is, the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Develop a logical sequence of information and express your thoughts clearly.

definition essay outline

You will be able to properly define your topic and explain it only when you have structured content. It will be difficult for your audience to understand your point of view without a step-by-step presentation. With a plan, you maintain a logical sequence in your content. In this type of essay, you can also use the standard 5-paragraph outline, which has proven to put all the information in readable order with it.


Remember that before you start writing the introduction of your essay with a definition, you need to familiarize yourself with a few rules. To make your first paragraph really interesting and informative, include a few basic elements there.

First of all, remember the hook, the purpose of which is to attract the attention of readers and arouse their interest in order to read your work to the end. In addition to the main definition of your term, you can add something intriguing and catchy if you want to achieve the appropriate effect. As an option for the hook, you can introduce:

  • Statistical fact or curious information;
  • Current quote on the topic;
  • Real-life example;
  • Rhetorical question to the term.

After that, continue to lead the information line, introducing your topic to readers. End your introductory paragraph with a short but resonant thesis. The introduction should not be extensive, but informative and concise.

Here you invite your readers to familiarize themselves with the topic. In addition to the hook, you should also add basic information: the generally accepted explanation of the term or its definition, its origin, overview, or history.


If you start your introduction with an academic definition of a term or from a dictionary, then you should end this paragraph with a thesis. You briefly describe the term and then underline your topic with a thesis, which becomes the main statement in your essay. With it, you express the main idea that you want to convey. This is not a place where you will expand your point of view, but rather it should be clear, concise, specific, and debatable.

Sometimes you will be asked a specific concept for which you need to write a definition. In this case, it is easier for the reader to look through the dictionary, because it is much more interesting to write, and then read about more abstract concepts, when you can add your own definitions and understandings.

Main Paragraphs

In the standard structure, in addition to the introduction and conclusion, you write 3 main paragraphs, but their number may vary depending on the complexity of the term. In the main part of the essay, you have the main discussion. You add all the information you know and its analysis to these paragraphs. In the main part of the essay definition, you add the following information:

  1. An overview of the essay topic with all the details and analysis;
  2. Explanation of the term and giving examples.

In each of the 3 standard paragraphs, you must add one aspect of the term and analysis to it. Evaluate each of the terms, provide examples, and give your readers a clearer explanation. Don’t forget to add transitional words to keep all the pieces together and gradually lead your readers to the conclusion.


In this part, you must sum everything up, and tie all the ends together. As well as other types of essays in an essay with a definition in the conclusion, you should write:

  • Overview of the main points of the essay (their summary);
  • Thesis in a reformulated form;
  • The final verdict of the discussion.

Your conclusion should be as strong as the introduction of the essay. Add a summary of key points to your essay and reformulate your thesis. In this way, you draw the final line and prove your vision to your audience.

How to Start an Essay With Definition

After all, the main goal of an essay with a definition is to give readers new information and to expand their understanding of a specific topic. Give them something they can’t find in dictionaries themselves.

In addition to the general guidelines and rules, you can see what experts advise when writing an essay with a definition:
Guide on How to Write a Definition Essay: All You Need to Know!
How to Write a Great Descriptive Essay on Life in Kenya
How to Write a High School Essay

Step 1: Creating an Idea

No matter how easy it may seem, creating an idea for an essay can be much more difficult than you think. You need to define the idea and its context. It needs to be sporty and challenging to use so that readers are interested in reading about it. For example, such an abstract concept as “success”is perceived differently in different age-old categories. You must decide for yourself what this idea means to you personally and how you analyze it. Don’t forget that you need to add enough examples to your idea.

Step 2: Argument

In an essay with a definition, the statement of the thesis means the explanation of the word in the context used. Words and terms can be defined in different ways:

  • According to its function – its main purpose;
  • According to its structure – its organization;
  • According to his analysis.

The pseudo mode is considered to be the preferred one when you need to consider different ways of how to use and understand words. You must thus come to your own personal conclusion in order to be able to fully explain the concept to your audience.

Step 3: Filling Out the Body of the Essay with Examples

You need to make rule number one filling your main body of the essay with all kinds of examples that will explain in the best possible way the context and terms of your audience. Add as many details and comments as possible to the draft.

In a simple scheme, you will start your paragraph with a topic sentence, and then add a specific detail about the essence of the term to shape its character. After that, insert a comment and your analysis. Try to move smoothly from paragraph to paragraph.
Hannah Wagner

Step 4: Finishing

In a definition essay, as in other types of writing, you must re-read and review all the material you have written. You must ensure that your thesis is fully understood and that your concepts are structured and organized. Your examples should be relevant, and the transitions between paragraphs should be smooth.

Note! Do not forget that you need to check the essay for errors, and read it out loud. Thus, the adjustment will be more effective. Ask your friends or relatives to read your essay to make sure that your concept is fully understood by other people.

Analysis of Sources

To write a good essay with a definition, you need to take reliable data from dictionaries, articles, and interviews and analyze and check them to find patterns. The purpose of your search will be the contrasts between the terms of their similarities, which you will use in the body of your essay. These data can also be compiled into a qualitative thesis. To make an analysis you must follow these steps:

  1. Prepare for writing an essay by analyzing your data. After reading the first interview or article again, number each main statement given by the author. Go to the second interview with the same approach and if you find a repetition of the meaning, then assign the same number as in the first option. If new values appear, then designate them with other numbers. Continue to do this with all interviews.
  2. Create a numbered list or table in Excel with all the values that you got from the interview analysis. Next, write down the names of the people who gave you these values.
  3. Review this list and analyze it in the same way. Write down what you came up with. To make it easier for you, ask yourself these questions:
  • What are the meanings of the term auspicious?
  • How are the values related?
  • What is the difference between these values?
  • What meaning was attached to the term by most people?
  • Is it possible to find a pattern or relationship between these values?
  • What meanings from interviews or articles overlap with the dictionary definition?
  • Are patterns divided into groups: women and men, old people and young people?

If you haven’t written a definition essay before, you might be surprised that the complexity comes when you need to use more sources. Therefore, you should use all possible recommendations.

Revising Your Article

If you gave your article for editing to your colleagues, then carefully review all their comments. You can use them to rewrite your work. To make the final edit, you should print out the cheat sheet and read it aloud to yourself. At this stage, you can check if your text is grammatically correct, and detect errors, such as spelling or missing words. While reading, you can also determine how the sentences sound. If you find it difficult to read the text, then this means that it needs to be reformulated. After that, it will become much easier to read.

Avoid building the first word in each paragraph. Be just as careful about using different types and lengths of sentences. Do not overdo it with the addition of transitional words at the beginning of sentences.


General communication is basically based on definitions. We often use definitions to explain something to someone. The definition essentially means the actual meaning of the word that can be found in the dictionary, the perception of this word by a person, synonyms for this word, and an explanation of what the word does not mean. Definition essays are most often given to first-year college students to exercise their ability to give definitions.

For writing the text, it is best to choose a term that is personally interesting to you. There are many ways to write a definition essay, so you have the freedom to choose one of them:

  • Definition with negation – shows your audience what the term means and what is not included in its concept;
  • Historical definition – shows readers how the meaning of the term has changed depending on time;
  • Restrictive definition – does not give readers the opportunity to think critically about something superfluous, because you give a specific explanation of the term and a way to explore it;
  • Objective definition – informs readers by emphasizing the term being described;
  • Subjective definition – designed to convince readers by how you perceive the term, your opinion, and how you personally see its definition.

Analyze the audience and determine which type will suit them the most. Look for a lot of information about what the term is. Decide what details will be in the essay and what examples you will add. Work out a thesis where you clearly state the term and your method of defining it – it should be one clear sentence that gives your readers an idea of what the text will be about.

Your introduction should guide the reader to what follows. And in the body of the text, don’t forget that you need to support the thesis and fully define your term. Choose the writing structure you are comfortable with: chronological, emphatic, visual, and so on.

In conclusion, you summarize all the main provisions of your definition. You also give a restatement of the thesis, which clearly gives your readers an understanding of what they just read and why they should be interested in it. All in all, if you want someone to process your “write essay for me” request, don’t hesitate to try our professional writers.

1. What is the definition of essay format and what does it consist of?
Most often, the formatting style is set by the teacher. It gives requirements that you must follow. The most common formats are Chicago, MLA, Harvard, and APA. Each of them has its own rules for writing headings, a title list, setting references in the text, and compiling a list of references. You can write the essay layout according to the instructions above. You will most likely stick to the standard: introductory paragraph, main body, and conclusion.

2. What term to choose for writing an essay with a definition?
The easiest and best option is to choose the topic that interests you. Think also about what kind of audience you have and what age category you are writing for. In the topic, give preference to abstract concepts. In this case, you will have more space to be creative and express your point of view on the topic and its definition.

Do not copy someone else’s ideas, no matter how interesting they may seem. Well-known or high-profile topics can make your essay less personal and therefore less interesting.

To inspire you to write your essay with a definition and find the most interesting topic, then look at the work of other writers and analyze them:
Definition Essay Topics and Ideas: Meet the Diversity of Inspiring Opinions
10 Definition Essay Topics on Environmental Science
20 Definition Essay Topics on Material Culture

3. How many paragraphs can be written in a definition essay?
You won’t find a standard essay size with a definition because it could be 400 words, or it could be 4000. Your teacher will give you the text size you need to pass the class. It’s best to always clarify text size when paper instructions don’t mention it. On average, you can focus on an essay that is 5 paragraphs long.

4. What are the mistakes when writing an essay-definition can be found?
Working with a huge number of information sources, it is easy to wander into terms that you do not understand. Thus, it may turn out that your text will contain inappropriate words or the wrong meaning. In this case, it is better for you to replace this word and choose a term that will be clear to you because this is fraught with a negative impact on the assessment.

About authors
James Snyder A Top-10 writer at
James is one of the most prominent authors on our team with more than 7 years of experience. He specializes in writing essays and coursework. James loves to work from home with a cup of hot chocolate and his cat Archibald.
Kate Roth A Top-10 writer at
Kate likes to read long stories and write essays. She’s experienced in both academic writing and marketing activities, so she can tell everything about a writer’s job in a few simple words. You can use our website to request the help of our experts anytime.

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