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What Is a Definition Essay?

The Definition of a Definition Essay

A definition essay is an essay that defines a concept, term or word in depth while providing personal commentaries on the specific subject’s meaning.

Almost every physical object has a definition which most of the people agree. For example, most people agree with the general descriptions for trees, windows, or computers. However, abstract objects such as pain, love or patriotism do not always mean the same for different individuals. Because when it comes to these terms, people rely more on their feelings more than their physical senses.

A definition essay provides an extended, personal definition for such a term by illustrating how the term should be applied, and by comparing or linking the term to previous definitions.

Choosing a Subject to Define

First up, you need to carefully select a subject. A definition essay is personal in nature, so you should select a subject based on your own need for clarifying the term. For instance, if you want to define the word “marriage” in a limited manner, you can choose it as a good subject to be defined.

Meanwhile, you should consider how well you know a term or subject before selecting it. You want to provide specific examples and evidence to illustrate your definition. For instance, if you are not very familiar with the term “domestic violence”, you should not attempt to write an extended essay to define it.

However, you should avoid subjects that are too narrow or too broad to fit the parameters of your definition essay. The word “coat” may be too narrow to be defined in an extended essay. The word “love” may be too broad on the other hand.

Writing a Definition Essay

Once you have chosen a subject and made a thoughtful outline, it is time to start writing your definition essay. Follow the instructions below:

  • Have a thoughtful and specific thesis to tell readers how you are going to define the chosen subject.
  • Follow your outline. Your outline reminds you when you need to use examples and evidence to prove the points. While writing, modify your outline when needed.
  • Illustrate each point with good, specific examples. The examples allow readers to imagine how your definition can be applied. Do some research to find good examples if needed.
  • Use good transitions in order for the parts of your essay to be linked.
  • Your conclusion should bring parts of the definition together while leaving readers an image of how your definition can be applied.


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