How to Write a Definition Essay: Writing Tips That Guaranteed a top Grade!

Posted on: 26th May 2020

At a glance, a definition essay can seem very easy to write; all you need to do is to define something. But what is this that you are defining.  A definition essay can ask you to define an idea, a term, or a concept. But here is the catch, this type of essay challenges you by asking you to define a sophisticated and abstract term. Terms such as faith, love, and hate. How can you define these elusive things and write a whole paper on them?

We have prepared a comprehensive guide for a decision essay to help you come up with the perfect paper. We will take you through how to choose a good definition essay topic, the essay structure,  share some tips, and of course, give you the best definition essay examples

How to Choose a Topic for Your Definition essay

The key to a high score on a definition essay is choosing a complex and broad term. A topic that is broad and that you can interprete in different ways will provide you with success. So it's very important to take the time to choose the topic you will write about. Make sure that you understand it and can come up with relevant examples to explain it. Here are some insights into how you can go about choosing a topic.

Go for a Concept or Idea and not concrete objects

It is better to choose words that describe a broad concept or idea. Concepts such as "pain", "justice", and "courage" are broad terms and can be described extensively in a definition essay. Try not to choose words that are too specific and describe objects or things. Words such as "pen", "chair", and "table" are too specific and not arguable. The whole world knows what a table is and what the word means.

Choose a Word that You are familiar with

Choosing a word that you are familiar with will make things easy for you. Go for a word that explains something that you usually feel or experience often. For example, you can choose a term such as "hard work" because you are a student, and you know what it means to work hard.

Choose a Word with a Complex Meaning

As we have just stated, words that refer to something concrete will not give you much to write about. Complex words that refer to something abstract will give you more room to explore. For example, take the word "house" and "home". A "house" is merely a structure, and you will not have much to write about on. A "home" on the other hand is a concept. Different people will interpret it differently depending on how these people were raised.

There are very many decision essay topics that your instructor can ask you to write. We want to make this guide easy to understand by choosing a simple topic to revolve around our examples. So in this article, we will base our examples on the word "love". It is a broad term that can be interpreted differently by different people. Now that we have a topic let us have a look at a definition essay outline.

Structure of a Definition essay

A definition essay consists of an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. The number of body paragraphs will depend on your instructor's instructions. Let's explore these sections in detail.

The Introduction

The introduction is a very important section for any essay paper. It highlights what your definition essay is going to talk about. When writing a definition essay, the introduction must include several essential elements. One being a convectional explanation of the Term you are going to describe as per the dictionary or web.

The main aim of the introduction is to present the Term you are going to define and come up with a thesis statement. There are many approaches to writing an introduction. But to come up with an outstanding one, we recommend the following steps:

Step 1-Starting the Text

Start the introduction with something catchy and intriguing that will grab the attention of the reader in an instant. It can be a famous quote, curious fact, or even a surprising statistic. However, this quote or fact should also be familiar to your readers. And so this makes it very important to do a little research to determine who your audience is before writing the essay. Doing so, you will better understand which quotes and examples to use. Using the right quotes and examples will spice up your essay and make it more interesting. It will also help the readers understand your point of view better.

For example, when you are writing about love and most of your audience is from the United Kingdom. You can start your Text with a relevant quote from William Shakespeare, a famous English poet, playwright, and actor.

"Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them – but not for love."

Step 2-Define the Term

After captivating your audience with the starting text, present the definition of the Term. Here are some tips that can help you come up with an exceptional definition:

  • Write down your understanding of the word.
  • Look up the word in the dictionary and familiarize yourself with the official definition.
  • Research the origin of the word by looking it up online or in print encyclopedias.
  • Go through online articles, websites, and videos that discuss the word.
  • Get other peoples' perspectives about the word including, your classmates, family, or friends.

When you use these tips, you will have a clear understanding of the Term. But first, you will write an official definition taken from a dictionary. In the case of love, it may be:

"The Cambridge Dictionary defines love as "to like another adult very much and be romantically and sexually attracted to them, or to have strong feelings of liking a friend or person in your family."

Step 3- Thesis Statement

The thesis statement plays a key role in defining the Term.  It is an arguable claim you make in the essay. However, since this is a definition essay, the thesis should be your interpretation of the word, based on the research you have done and your personal experiences. Here is a good thesis statement for our topic about love:

 "Love is the acceptance, compromise of lifestyle, and journey towards a shared future with a partner."

It is essential to keep the definition in your thesis brief and basic- you will have a chance to elaborate on it in the body paragraphs. Also, while coming up with your thesis, it is important to keep the dictionary meaning of the word in mind.  There should be a clear relationship between your thesis statement and the initial meaning of the word. This will help the audience have a logical, coherent flow to your definition essay.

Before we proceed to the next part of the article, let us recap the structure of the introduction: The introduction of a definition essay consists of an opening quote,  a definition from the dictionary, plus your explanation of the word also known as the thesis statement. Stick to this structure, and you will write the perfect introduction.

Body Paragraphs for your Definition Essay

A definition essay usually follows the classic 5 paragraph format. This means that you have to come up with at least three body paragraphs, plus an introduction, and a conclusion. Luckily, the writing process becomes more straight forward when writing the body paragraphs. All you have to do is to provide enough information explaining crucial facts about the word; share different points of view so that your audience can understand the word better, and appreciate your perspective. You should explain each idea or point of view in a separate paragraph. Let us have a look at the different techniques you can use to define a word.

History and Etymology of the word

Each word has a certain story of how it came to be. Etymologies seek the earliest origin of a word by tracing the roots to its most basic elements, that is, the simple words that were put together to create it. Provide your readers with clear insights into the history of the word. For example;

"The word 'love' can be traced back to an old English word 'leof' which means 'dear'"

Dictionary Definition of the Word

Although we have already stated the dictionary definition of the word in the introduction,  explain it further in a new body paragraph. Provide your readers with a deep analysis of the dictionary definition of the word.  Analyze each word used in the definition. Explore its synonyms and homonyms. You have to dig deep into a word for you to understand its deeper meanings.

For example, the word "love" has different approaches to it. You may discuss it based on affection, attachment, or even sexual embrace.


An analogy is an act of comparing one thing and another for an explanation. Compare and contrast the Term with other terms that have a similar meaning. You can also compare with other terms that mean the opposite of the Term you are discussing.

For example, you can talk about how "love" is similar and also not quite the same as "like". You can say:

"When you like someone, you are thrilled to be with them. You feel excited whenever that person is near you. With love, it is more than just excitement. You experience an unexplainable joy in the presence of that person. It feels like you are home."

Using this technique is great because you can use your own experiences. It makes the essay more personal and helps the readers get to know you better.

Personal Definition

This technique explains the Term using personal stories and experiences. Write down your understanding of the Term as well as the understanding of others. Open up to your readers-they will appreciate it. For example, you may write;

"My parents taught me that love is sacred. All love stories I grew up with had a happy ending. The ordained union between two souls is the greatest show of love."


Enumeration involves using a list to define the word. Enumeration is a neat way to organize the essay and explain your stand. For example,

"True love is about:

  1. Strong emotional connection with your partner.
  2. Caring unconditionally.
  3. Accepting flaws.
  4. Respect.
  5. Happiness."

Looks good, right? This technique helps to explain the definition conveniently without using long boring elaborated sentences.

There are plenty of techniques to be used to describe body paragraphs. However,  avoid mixing different techniques in one paragraph.  It will disrupt the flow of the essay. We recommend the following body paragraph format to have a good flow in your essay.

  1. History and Etymology of the word - 1st body paragraph
  2. Denotation- Definition of the word from the dictionary - 2nd body paragraph
  3. Personal definition of the word -3rd body paragraph

These first three body paragraph techniques should follow a chronological order, the rest of the techniques you can present whichever way you like. Keep your paragraph focused and remember that they must support your thesis statement.

Concluding Your Definition Essay

The conclusion is the final section of your essay. It summarizes the main points from the entire paper, in that case, avoid giving any new information here. The best way to conclude your essay is by restating the thesis statement using a positive tone and bringing all your key points together. It is important to restate the thesis so that you remind the reader of your definition of the Term. Then wrap things up with a compelling concluding statement.

What Now?

In this article, we have discussed a definition essay comprehensively. We have analyzed topic selection, the structure, and we have come up with relevant examples. Now, are you ready to write an excellent definition essay? I'd say, Yes!

Brainstorming about words is not a strong suit for some students. You can spend hours trying to come up with a well-known word that has a multidimensional meaning. Relax, our essay writing service is here to help.

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