How to Write a Definition Essay

Do you now how to write a Definition Essay? As a student, you may be aware that words carry various meanings according to different contexts. An idea in one text could mean a different thing when you use it in another scenario.

A definition essay discusses a term according to its use in different settings.

How to Write a Definition Essay
How to Write a Definition Essay

It explores the diverse definitions of a word according to its structure and function. While a description is a simple statement describing a term, a definition essay tackles several explanations of the same.

In this article, you will find the devices and framework you need to write your definition essay.

Step 1: Choosing a Topic/Term for Your Definition Essay

The extensive nature of definition essays will require you to select a term with a few considerations in mind. The word you choose to define should be.


Words with simple meanings may give you very little to write about in terms of content. Writing an essay on such words will only result in a shallow write-up that may not engage your reader. However, if you find a complex or abstract noun, it may give you more to incorporate into your text.

Nouns that refer to people, animals, places, or things may be simplistic. They may not give you enough room to extend their meaning sufficiently.

Definition Essay Tips

But, nouns referring to phenomena, quality, or concepts are more substantial. They may provide the necessary depth to form an excellent definition essay. Take a look at some abstract topic ideas here.


The word you select should be compound enough to mean different things in various contexts. This aspect is, in a way, subjective since it involves interpreting a term according to your perspective. Keep in mind that you will need proof to support your point of view.

You should identify a word that is broad enough to mean several things to different people. If it holds a single and indisputable meaning, your essay will seem to lack substance. After an analysis of the word, your readers should be able to argue the legitimacy of your term.


You should be well acquainted with the term you are defining. This is because you will need more than dictionary definitions to extend its meaning appropriately. You will need to support the explanation with additional knowledge from your personal experiences or expertise.

A familiar word will help you avoid exaggerating or downplaying the definition.

Step 2: Structuring Your Definition Essay

The format of a definition essay is akin to that of a standard academic essay. It must have; an introduction, at least three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.


In this first section of your essay, you should state the term you are defining. Alongside it, include the lexical or traditional definition of the word.

Providing the dictionary definition of your term will provide context and a basic understanding of the word. This will pave the way for your subjective interpretation of the word.

Also, include your thesis statement in your introductory passage. It should define the term in your own words. Only state the definition and do not explain it at this point.

Maintain the use of active voice in this section.

Body Paragraphs

This section will form the bulk of your essay. Here, you will want to elaborate on the different definition perspectives you have identified in your research. Use the techniques in the next section to analyze and organize your work.

Each technique of definition you explore should have its paragraph. You may use a topic sentence to highlight the strategy you will be discussing in each passage. It will ensure your reader is aware whenever you are transitioning from one item to the next.

Alongside the technique you discuss, incorporate an example or some evidence that supports your definition. You can use quotes from journals, articles, and other online sources to back up your claims. Make sure you follow the appropriate citation style according to your instructor’s requirements.


You should wrap up your essay by restating the standard definition. You may also rephrase your stipulated meaning of the word along with your thesis.  Briefly walk over your main points and ensure that you do not add any new information.

After writing, ensure you thoroughly proofread and edit your paper.

Step 3: Strategies for Examining the Term in Your Definition Essay

To uncover the structure and function of a term thoroughly, you will need to analyze it using various strategies. Once you identify the word, consider it with the following techniques in mind.

Denotation (Dictionary Definition)

You will not build your essay on the fundamental definition of your word alone. However, checking the lexical meaning will make you familiar with the common uses of the defined term. This understanding will assist you in comparing the standard definition with your stipulated description.


Check the origin or historical use of your word in any etymology dictionary. It will tell you the historical background of the term, which may provide some additional insight into its general definition.

It may also inform you of any historic change of meaning in the word as well as how it came to mean what it does today.


It refers to signifying the word beyond its literal meaning to its implied essence. It is the feeling or idea that is suggested by the term you are defining.


An analogy is a comparison between two things for clarification. Using an analogy, you could help your reader understand a complex term by comparing it to a familiar and straightforward concept.


It refers to defining something based on what it is not. It is especially applicable to words that are often misused or misinterpreted.


Analyzing means that you should pull the word apart to define its components. It applies well to compound terms like ‘dictatorship,’ which is a combination of ‘dictator’ and ‘ship.’ Deal with each portion separately.


Identify the specific class and part of the speech to which the term belongs. You can find information in a standard dictionary. This primary data may provide context for the various ways to use the word.

Create an Original Definition

Using the strategies above in combination with your experience and overall understanding, you could invent a new definition of the word.

Definition Essay Writing Tips

Final Thoughts

Now that you have explored the connotative and denotative aspects of a definition essay, you may go ahead and write an outstanding paper. Writing a definition essay will build upon your critical thinking capabilities as you find new ways of defining a term.

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