How To Write a Definition Essay: Ins and Outs

What does it mean to be an exemplary student? Well, one of the aspects may involve looking up all of the words unknown to you in the dictionary. Sure, finding new word definitions is not all it takes, but it is usually a nice start.

Plus, some terms can be so complex that a sentence or two will not be enough to describe the notion. Sometimes, it may take a thousand words to describe one! Know what we are talking about here? Then, you will have no trouble figuring out how to write a definition essay!

Definition Essay: what is it exactly?

Despite a very simple definition of the paper, this type of essay can be quite tricky to write. The main challenge is dedicating an entire paper to just one word, of course. Yet, there is more. The explanation of the word in question has to be personal and formal at the same time. Then, of course, there is choosing the word to define. Obviously, it cannot be something simple, something that takes only a couple of other words to describe. Ideally, it has to be a complex term with an extensive history and background. Plus, it should be something people can relate to. Perhaps, the best example would be the term ‘love.’ You can’t really explain what it is in a couple of sentences, and you can stay confident everyone has some personal understanding of what love is. Bingo!

Topic Ideas for a Definition Essay

  • What it means to be a Hero
  • Defining Success
  • What Love Is?
  • What Does Beauty Mean?
  • What Is Happiness?
  • What Does Loyalty Mean?
  • What Is Respect?
  • The Definition of Courage
  • Explaining Friendship
  • Describing Patriotism

These are the most popular assignments when it comes to college tests and course works. Sure, there is a whole range of other notions that have similar universal applications. But, if you are to pick a word on your own, this list should give you an excellent start. Sure, some of the ideas might seem a bit trivial, but you have to remember that it’s not the word choice that makes a good definition essay. It’s the way you analyze the meaning that can get you an A+!

The Outline: What Makes a Good Definition Essay?

The length of your definition essay will mostly depend on the word you choose. As we have already mentioned, there are notions that are quite simple to understand. Obviously, you will not be able to craft pages on something simple. Then again, there are terms that require tons of research and analysis. Ideally, you should aim for the second kind. Still, no matter what word you choose, any definition essay will follow a classic pattern of introduction, main body, and conclusion.

Before You Start Writing

As mentioned above, the trickiest and the most important part of writing a definition essay is choosing the term for analysis. Here are some pointers that will help you with that:

  • Choosing an intriguing term:

It is once again important to stress that you will not be able to craft a good definition essay on a simple term. So, take some time figuring out your topic. Remember that most nouns are not our best friends here. Take a word ‘sneaker,’ for example. Not much to go on, right? On the other hand, you may think of ‘running’ — it falls into the same sphere, but is a way more subjective concept that leaves you some room for the imagination!

  • Sticking to multi-dimensional words:

Here is a golden tip to remember: in every language, there are words that have multiple meanings and interpretations. This means that different people perceive such words differently, which is a perfect fit for a definition essay.

  • Ignoring universal terms is another thing to remember.

For example, words like ‘morning’ or ‘pencil’ mean one and the same thing all over the world. Sure, with a little imagination, you can work with those terms, too; but, it is always better to choose something more exciting right from the start!

  • Being familiar with the word:

You cannot possibly write a good paper on a notion you have zero ideas about. Take terms like ‘love’ or ‘respect’ as examples. Well, if you have never experienced these emotions before, you will unlikely come up with a good paper on the subject. So, stick to the terms you can relate to — that’s a priority with a definition essay.

  • Historical Research:

A lot of complex notions have been around for centuries. So, the definition of the word you have chosen might have altered significantly over the years. Researching the historical component of a given word will not only provide extra inspiration but also make your paper more credible.


Any introduction offers a quick overview of the analyzed topic. Then, it presents a thesis which is further on developed in the body paragraphs. In the case of a definition essay, you will be working with two definitions of the same word: a standard one and a thesis one.

A standard definition is basically a dictionary definition of the word. This part of the intro acts like a brief overview of the general problem in any other type of academic writing. Thesis definition is a replacement of a thesis statement in other forms of academic writing. Ideally, it should be a mixture of the dictionary definition and your own ideas on the subject. Remember to stay brief, though! Leave most of your musings for the body paragraphs!

Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph focuses on a different aspect (meaning, definition) of the word you’ve chosen. It is crucial to keep them separated, without jumping from one idea to another to keep the logic of your paper easy to follow. Here is a quick example of a what good structure looks like:

  • Paragraph 1: History and Etymology (Origins).
  • Paragraph 2: Full dictionary definition and modern usage.
  • Paragraph 3: Personal perception and definition from experience.


Just like the intro, your conclusion should be short, simple, and to the point. Quickly summarize the main points from the body paragraphs; make sure to rephrase your own definition of the word. Most importantly, mention how this word impacted you — after all, you’ve chosen it for a personal reason, right? This impact will create a sense of purpose, keeping your reader engaged till the last lines of the paper.

Still need help with your essay?

Sure, even the tips above cannot teach you everything. The first definition essay is always a challenge. But don’t fuss, we’re always here to help! Elite Essay Writers is one of the most reliable custom essay writing services on the web. So, any time you feel like buying an essay online, we’re here to help you out!