Writing a Successful Definition Essay: The Process Explained

Essay writing, including completing successful definition essay assignments, is an unavoidable aspect of college and school life and there is nothing students can do to alter this fact. The one thing you can try to do is simplify the process as much as you possibly can. You may feel that it impossible to get better at writing because either you are a naturally skilled writer or you just are not any good at writing – that there is nothing in between. However, thinking like this is a mistake. You could liken writing to cooking. You can hardly be expected to bake a great cake unless you have the right recipe and/or have practiced before. Baking, like writing is an art form or skill that one develops. This article focuses on the art of writing great definition essays and, in teaching you the process, will make the task as easy as possible.   

What are Definition Essays?

Definition essays, especially a successful definition essay, are written pieces in which the writer chooses a word and provides their definition of it. It is important their definition is carefully researched and solidly supported with evidence. The essay may also explain the meaning of a certain word or term. Some words have a definite, literal meaning e.g. such words as table, chair, or pen. Other words are quite abstract e.g. words such as love, hate, truth, and success, with much dependent on an individual’s viewpoint.  

A successful definition essay can be written as a class assignment or as a way of improving one’s English language skills and it can help to think of it as a language skills challenge.

Writing a Good Definition Essay – A “How to” Guide

Selecting an idea or concept is the primary point in the definition essay writing process. So select a word that explains or describes that idea or concept e.g. “Love,” “Hate,” “Truth,” “Heroic,” and so on. Make absolutely sure you fully understand your chosen word or term. You may check a word’s definition in reference books such as dictionaries but you should not copy these definitions directly; your explanation should be based on your own unique words. If the idea or concept you have chosen is quite open, you may want to base your definition on personal experience and look for sources as a way of supporting your explanations and/or definitions.

Our next tip on how to write a definition essay step by step is to advice you not to select objects such as “plate,” “pillow,” “ledge,” etc. since these can make your task even more difficult. In the first place, it is difficult to write a great deal about a specific subject and, additionally, your writing may appear superficial and insufficiently insightful.

Choose a term or word that is familiar to you and that you at least understand in a basic way. This will make writing a lot easier. For example, selecting the word “dishonor” is a good choice when you understand its meaning, have plenty to write about that word, you understand what it feels like, and it can be applied in some way to your own circumstances or life.

It is often best to select words that have multiple meanings, particularly where these words may have different meanings for different individuals. A word like this will give you more material to base your writing upon, it will give you the chance to set out your own understanding of, and it will allow you to explain how other individuals might interpret it.  

For example, you may choose to write about “love” since this word has many meanings and every person experiences it and/or understands it in their own special way.  .

Each word has an official definition or meaning, which can be found in dictionaries. Become familiar with this meaning. Look closely at the definition’s structure.

Use encyclopedias to research the origins of words, to establish were they derived from, and any ideas or theories related to a particular word. And if, for instance, you choose a word from a specific field such as the legal field, look that word up in law books and law-based encyclopedias.

These days it is possible to find plenty information on various words; you just need to be connected to the Internet. It contains a lot of essays, blog postings, and academic or scholarly articles. Furthermore, it is home to numerous videos created by clever individuals who have researched all sorts of words in great detail and are now happy to share their effort and knowledge. 

Record your definition of your chosen word based on data from your experiences and research.

Creating an Outline for a Definition Essay

An outline should sum-up in fairly brief terms your essay’s content and attempt to organize it in a way that is coherent and easy-to-understand. Creating short drafts can be extremely effective and certain tutors even ask students to provide drafts as a way of showing the essay has been written by themselves. The outline for a definition essay is usually comprised of the standard format of an introduction, main body paragraphs, and concluding section. Here is an example of a basic definition essay structure:

Introductory Section

In your introductory section, you should tell readers what your paper will cover. The primary goal of the introduction in a definition essay is to provide readers with two distinct definitions – a standard and a thesis definition. The first (standard) one can be found in a dictionary. The second (thesis) differs somewhat from the dictionary definition, so readers need to be given an initial point from which they can begin understanding the word or term in order to clarify everything.

Thesis Sentence/Statement

A thesis sentence or statement both sets out the actual meaning of a term along with your understanding of it. However, the introductory section should not contain an excessive amount of information since you should keep some over for the paragraphs that will make up your essay’s main body. Additionally, you should avoid phrases such as “this happens when” and “this happens where” in your description of a word.

The Paragraphs in the Essay’s Main Body

This part of a definition essay is the biggest. It is here you need to explain or define the main parts of the word or term and organize them in logical sections. Use materials from the research you did, e.g., the word’s history, the variations of it, and it will need to be broken down into its component parts.

Concluding Section

As always, you should summarize all key points of your essay’s argument in this last section but by rewording them. You should also make your closing section deep and interesting, illustrate how the word has impacted your own life, and leave your readers with a feeling of satisfaction and purpose. 

Good Topic Ideas for a Definition Essay

  1. Define wisdom
  2. Define love
  3. What is meant by “beauty?”
  4. What is the definition of a “great” friend?
  5. What does solitude mean to you?
  6. Define what success means
  7. What is the meaning of loneliness?
  8.  What do you thing being “smart” means?
  9. When a person is described as “good,” what does this mean?
  10. What is meant by a scholar?

Help with a Definition Essay

It is hoped you found this guide useful and that you are now a better writer than you were before. So, here is one final tip. Below are four good resources to help you write even better essays.

  1. Tools for generating topics. While your essay’s topic is a small part of an essay, it is the thing readers see first and is therefore of considerable importance. However, it can be difficult to choose an eye-catching essay topic. Here is a site that will help you select the best topics.
  2. Sample essays. Sample or example essays are a great “friend” of virtually every school or college student. Look at our samples, get inspiration, and then write fantastic essays yourself. Do not forget that you should just view these but not take them. While you may be tempted, it is likely the truth will be evident to tutors/teachers.
  3.  Essay (grammar) checkers. An important step in the essay writing process – possibly the most essential one – is to check your work for grammar errors, general completeness, and structure. If this is something, you might find difficult, try this website.
  4. Editing help. If, after checking an essay, you are still in doubt, try this website and sleep easy at night. The professionals here excel at their craft and will polish your essay(s) to perfection.