What is a Definition Essay?
A definition essay is writing that explains what a term means. Some terms have definite, concrete meanings, such as glass, book, or tree. Terms such as honesty, honor, or love are abstract and depend more on a person's point of view.
Three Steps to Effective Definition
- Tell readers what term is being defined.
- Present clear and basic information.
- Use facts, examples, or anecdotes that readers will understand.
Choosing a Definition
Choosing a definition is a key step in writing a definition essay. You need to understand the term before you can define it for others. Read the dictionary, but don't just copy the definition. Explain the term briefly in your own words. Also, it's important to limit your term before you start defining it. For example, you could write forever on the term "love." To limit it, you would write about either "romantic love," "platonic love," or "first love."
Thesis Statement of a Definition Essay
The thesis statement usually identifies the term being defined and provides a brief, basic definition.
(term) (basic definition)
Ex: Assertiveness is standing up for your rights.
How To Write an Effective Definition
- Create a definition. There are several ways to define a term. Here are a few options.
- Define by function. Explain what something does or how something works.
- Define by structure. Tell how something is organized or put together.
Define by analysis. Compare the term to other members of its class and then illustrate the differences. These differences are special characteristics that make the term stand out. For example, compare a Siberian husky to other dogs, such as lap dogs, mutts, or sporting dogs.
(term) (precise definition)
Ex: A Siberian husky is a dog reputed for its ability to tolerate cold, its distinctive features, and its keen strength and stamina.
- Define by what the term does not mean. This distinction can sometimes clarify a definition and help a reader to better understand it.
- Use understandable facts, examples, or anecdotes. Select facts, examples, or anecdotes to fully explain your definition. Ask yourself, "Which examples will best help readers understand the term? What examples would most appeal to my readers? Will a brief story reveal the term's meaning?" Do not use any examples that will not support the definition.
Remember: A definition essay is writing that explains what a term means. When writing a definition essay, remember to tell readers what term is being defined, to present a clear and basic definition, and to use facts, examples, or anecdotes that readers will understand
Here are the examples of popular definition essay topics:
- Sense of Humor
Whatever essay topic you choose, you should be interested in the subject and familiar with it. It would be great if you had your personal experience in the matter you are going to define.
Definition Essays: Explaining a Term With Examples, Facts and Anecdotes
Definition essays define a specific term through explanation. Defined terms can be concrete or abstract. Concrete terms are words like pencil, coffee or fan; abstract terms are words like integrity, honesty or love. When this type of essay defines something abstract, you usually write from your point of view. Before you jump into writing this essay format, make sure you understand the assignment well.
The main components of definition essays
There are three components that dictate what you write in a definition essay:
In addition, any term you select to define in the definition essay should have a complex meaning, possibly mean different things to different people and stay able to be discussed in a meaningful way.
Choosing the definition for your essay
While stating the term you intend to define seems pretty straightforward, some words have multiple meanings. The definition is the central point of the essay, so before you can write about it to explain it to your readers, you must first understand the specific meaning. Some words are very broad in definition and lend themselves to creating too broad of a topic. For example, “sleep” is very broad, but you can narrow the definition by defining “sleep deprivation” instead.
Writing the thesis statement for a definition essay
In a definition essay, the thesis statement is the term and its definition. It is very simple in nature and consists solely of the term and a very basic definition. Part of developing your thesis revolves around writing an effective definition. There are multiple approaches to defining your selected term:
Using facts, examples or anecdotes to write the definition essay
As you define your term more in-depth, select facts, examples or anecdotes you can use to define your term more completely. Considerations you should make while deciding on the best way to define the term include the following:
- Do certain examples make the term more understandable?
- Which examples or facts are the most appealing?
- Can an anecdote best explain the meaning of the term?
However you decide to explain the term, never use examples, facts or anecdotes that do not support the definition 100 percent.
Choosing definition essay topics
You have virtually unlimited choices when it comes to selecting a term to define in this type of essay. However, abstract terms lend the air to more creativity and personal anecdotes. Examples of terms you might choose include the following:
When selecting a term, aim to pick something that you find interesting and something to which you can personally relate. Not only does it make the writing process easier, but it generally makes what you write more interesting. As you wrap up your essay, the final paragraph is often used to share the personal meaning of the word you selected.