Ultimate Guide on Definition Essay: Writing Guide, Topics, Examples

Ultimate Guide on Definition Essay: Writing Guide, Topics, Examples

You have definitely learned some definitions at school and college or even had to give your own definition of some terms or things. You know that definitions are usually short and consist of one to three sentences. But now you’ve got a task to write the whole definition essay. Have no idea how to write more than three sentences and what are the definition essay parts? Do not worry! Read on to learn about the peculiarities of essay structure, check the topics, and see examples.

What is  a definition essay

Definition essay, also referred to as extended definition essay, is the type of academic writing  that presupposes giving definition of a particular notion, term, concept, or phenomenon. It is much longer and specific than a simple definition. Definition essay provides different meanings of the word, both denotative and connotative, explains peculiarities of its uses, and offers examples. It may define some specific things such as a car, door, bad as well as abstract things, such as love, success, freedom, happiness.

What is the purpose of a definition essay

One word can have different meanings in different domains of life, which are sometime controversial. The purpose of a definition essay is not just to provide a short explanation of a notion, but to mention all the possible meanings and usages of a words and specify the difference between those meaning and usages.

 When it comes to defining some abstract notions, such as love, home, or family, the extended definition essay may also include the meaning of that word to the author, which cannot be found in dictionaries.

Difference between definition and definition essay

Be sure, definition and definition essay are two different things. Definition essay is much more specific and wider notion than just a definition.

  • Definition  is a statement of a specific meaning of a word.
  • Extended definition essay provides all the possible meanings of the word (denotative and connotative), explains difference between them and their usage, provides examples, and offers author’s understanding of that word.

Definition essay structure 

Definition essay is a type of an expository essay. Thus, it has a classical essay structure, which consists of 5 components: introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and conclusion.

Definition essay outline

A typical extended definition essay outline looks as follows:

Introduction of a definition essay

  • Start with a sentence that will spark the reader’s interest to read your essay. Usually it is called a hook. It might be an anecdote, a funny story, an interesting fact, or your personal experience.
  • Provide background information 
  • Specify the term, notion, concept, etc. you will define in your essay
  • Thesis statement of a definition essay is a short definition of a term or notion you are going to discuss in your writing 

Body paragraphs (at least three)

  • Provide different approaches to defining a meaning of a chosen word
  • Present only one approach per paragraph
  • Provide example for each definition
  • If the definitions have slight differences clearly define them and exemplify
  • Make sure to include a topic sentence in each paragraph

Conclusion of a definition essay

  • In the conclusion part summarize all the main points you have mentioned in your essay. Please do not just repeat or copy-paste, but analyze and synthesize.

Approaches to defining a term

There exist different approaches to defining a term. Here are the most common techniques:

  • Denotation - providing a dictionary definition
  • Connotation - mentioning implied meaning of a term
  • Enumeration - giving a list of all the possible meanings
  • Analogy or analysis - comparing and contrasting similar notions from the same class of a word you define
  • By function - defining the term by the functions it performs
  • By structure - defining the term by explaining how it is organized
  • Negation  - is  proving a definition of a term by explaining what it is not

How to write a definition essay 

If you do not know how to start writing a definition essay, we have created a logical algorithm for you.

  1. Choose the word you are going to define
  2. Consider your audience. Make sure that the term you  have chosen is relevant, that it will be interesting for them, and that you will be able to explain it to them. 
  3. Make a research and check the definitions of that word in different dictionaries
  4. Also check the origin of the term you define. It might help you understand the word better and can also serve as a hook.
  5. Create a definition essay thesis statement. It is a short definition of your word.
  6. Write an introductory part in which you should add a hook sentence, specify the word to be defined, and include a thesis statement, i.e. short definition
  7. In the body paragraphs present different meaning of a a word by using different approaches. If the term has diverse or contradicting definitions in some contexts or areas of life, clearly explain those differences and give examples.
  8. If you are defining some abstract concepts (such as love or happiness), give your own definition and understanding of that word.
  9. In the concluding part, restate the thesis statement and summarize all the main points of an essay.
  10. Proofread your paper for grammar, formatting, or stylistic mistakes and plagiarism.

Ideas for definition essay topics 

We have collected the most interesting ideas of definition essay topics for your inspiration:

college students

Definition essay topics for college

  1. What is the meaning of education for you
  2. What person do you consider education
  3. Is cheating a crime?
  4. What is beauty?
  5. What makes a good student
  6. Who is a good/bad professor
  7. A teacher is always a student?
  8. Laziness and success are incompatible
  9. Wealth is abundance?

Interesting definition essay topics

  1. Creativity is inborn or acquired?
  2. A person considers happiness to be something they cannot get
  3. What does it mean to be kind?
  4. What is a balance in life?
  5. Who are good parents?
  6. Can generosity be measured?
  7. Does the universe have boundaries?
  8. What it means to be respected
  9. Who is a hero?
  10.  Is a hero always a positive character?

Common topics for definition essay

  1. Can advertisements be considered an art?
  2. What is hatred?
  3. Can trust be defined
  4. American dream definition
  5. What is respect?
  6. What is wisdom?
  7. Wisdom comes with age only?
  8. Racism and discrimination

Definition essay topics on love

  1. Parental love
  2. Is love the same as devotion
  3. Passion and love - synonyms?
  4. Universal meaning of love. Does it exist?
  5. What does it mean to feel loved
  6. Sharing is caring?
  7. Definition of love in poetry
  8. Ways to express love
  9. Definition essay topics on family

  10. Perfect family
  11. Can friends be called a family?
  12. Family values
  13. What makes a family
  14. Two people are a family?
  15. What  family means in a XXI family?
  16. What makes up a family
  17. Blood relation is the only criteria for a group of people to be called a family?

Definition essay topics on freedom

  1. What is freedom for you?
  2. Definition of freedom in literature
  3. What is considered freedom in a XXI century?
  4. Freedom is independence?
  5. Love is freedom?
  6. What is freedom of speech?
  7. Can freedom be stolen?
  8. Freedom at the times of slavery

Definition essay topics on happiness

  1. What is a happiness for you
  2. Happiness is abstract or material?
  3. Can happiness be measured?
  4. What do you feel when you are  happy?
  5. What is a happy marriage?
  6. Happiness in books
  7. Happiness as a state of mind
  8. Happiness is myth?

Extended definition essay examples 

To have a better understanding of how a definition essay looks like, we have added definition essay examples for your inspiration.


Definition essay sample about happiness.

Extended definition essay about love.

Pro tips for an outstanding definition essay

Consider the tips from professional writers that will help you make your definition essay interesting, clear, and effective

Things to be added to your extended definition paper:

  • Consider your audience when choosing and defining the term
  • Make sure that you understand the notion you define
  • The word you have chosen should be complex enough to be defined in an essay
  • Provide anecdotes, facts, and examples that will be clear for you and your audience.
  • Explain a difficult term using common words
  • If the word is complex, divide it into parts and explain each part separately

Things to avoid in a definition essay:

  • Do not define two different notions in one essay
  • Do not take a too broad or narrow concept
  • Do not forget to mention the term being defined
  • Do not use repetitive sentence structures (such as Happiness is..)

Where to get a definition essay without writing it 

Now, you are almost a pro and the only thing left to to is to take your time and write your definition essay. If you need an essay writing help or a person who can choose an interesting topic for your definition essay, try essay writing help. Our expert writers can complete any type of essay for you based on the instructions you provide. We have experts in different fields who will be able to define and explain the term of any complexity. Save your time and receive an A+.