Ultimate guide on how to write a definition essay with writing tips, topics, and examples

Ultimate guide on how to write a definition essay with writing tips, topics, and examples
Table of Contents
  1. Ultimate guide on how to write a definition essay with writing tips, topics, and examples
  2. What is  a definition essay and its purpose
  3. Difference between definition and definition essay
  4. How to define a term. Common approaches
  5. Denotation
  6. Connotation
  7. Enumeration
  8. Analogy or analysis
  9. Negation or explaining what the term is not
  10. Tips for writing a definition essay outline. Essay structure
  11. Definition essay outline
  12. How to write a definition essay fast just in 3 steps
  13. 1.Prewriting
  14. Choose the term
  15. Conduct research on the topic
  16. Choose the approach
  17. Draft thesis statement
  18. Create an outline
  19. 2.Writing
  20. How to write an introduction for a definition essay
  21. How to write a good thesis for a definition essay
  22. Main body
  23. How to conclude a definition essay
  24. Creating a catchy title
  25. 3.Editing and proofreading
  26. 20 Good Definition essay topics 2020
  27. Definition essay examples
  28. Example 1
  29. Definition essay example 2
  30. Sample definition essay 3
  31. Common definition essay mistakes you should avoid
  32. Need a definition essay asap?

You are aware what definition is from the very primary school. But now you need to write the whole definition essay? What is that? Is it similar to expository writing or a opinion essay? What is it about? What is the definition essay structure? What are the definition essay topics? What are the definition essay and movie review essay? How to write a definition essay? How does it look like? If you are looking for answers to these questions, you are in the right place! The articles will give you answers to all these questions as well as will provide good definition essay ideas and examples.

 What is  a definition essay and its purpose

 From the term a definition essay is a type of academic writing that provides a definition of a chosen term, concept, idea, or phenomenon. Both abstract and concrete notions can be defined in this paper type. A definition essay explains all the possible meanings, and contexts, provides examples, and explains what a notion is not.


Difference between definition and definition essay

You may ask Why to write a whole essay if you can explain the term in one paragraph? So what is the difference between a definition and a definition essay. Both pieces of writing provide an explanation of some term or concept. However, definition is much shorter and covers only the most commonly used explanation. 

A definition essay provides a more detailed explanation. It covers all the possible definitions, including denotations and connotations. It also explains the use of the term in different contexts and the peculiarities of the term meaning in those different contexts. In general, definition essay gives a wider picture.

How to define a term. Common approaches

Different approaches can be used to explain the term. These are the most common.

  1. Denotation

Denotation or denotative meaning is a direct meaning of a word, which is devoid of subjective ideas regarding the term given by the author. Denotation or direct meaning is the explanation provided in the dictionary.

  1. Connotation

Connotation is an not a direct, but an implied meaning of a term. It can be gain due to cultural or personal peculiarities or perceptions. 

For example, according to Cambridge dictionary, home is “the house, apartment, etc. where you live, especially with your family”. However, home means different things for every person, such as the place where your family lives, place where you can relax, or where you can be yourself.

  1. Enumeration

Enumeration is an approach to term definition when you provide a list of all the possible meanings. 

For example, several meanings of the word hand

  • the terminal part of the vertebrate forelimb when modified (as in humans) as a grasping organ : the body part at the end of the arm of a human, ape, or monkey
  • the forelimb segment (such as the terminal section of a bird's wing) of a vertebrate higher than the fishes that corresponds to the hand irrespective of its form or functional specialization
  • something resembling a hand:
  • an indicator or pointer on a dial
  • a character ☞ used to direct particular attention (as to a note or paragraph) (3)
  • a cluster of bananas developed from a single flower group
  • a branched rootstock of ginger
  • a bunch of large leaves (as of tobacco) tied together usually with another leaf
  • a part serving the function of or resembling a hand: such as
  • the hind foot of an ape
  • the chela of a crustacean
  1. Analogy or analysis

Defining a term using analogy means comparing it to some similar or absolutely different notions. It is a more difficult approach than enumeration as it presupposes analysing similarities and difficulties. But it can give you a better understanding of a term.

  1. Negation or explaining what the term is not

The last approach to defining a term explaining what the concept or notion is not. Sometimes, when it is difficult to explain the term, when there are numerous similar concepts, or several similar meanings, the best approach to explanation is stating what the term is not. 


Tips for writing a definition essay outline. Essay structure

Writing an outline for an essay is always a good idea. You spend 15-20 minutes on organizing your ideas logically, and then you just follow the plan of an essay and do not need what to write next.

Definition essay outline

The common definition essay outline looks as follows

    Specify the term you are going to define
    General information about the notion
    Thesis statement
Main body
    Provide all the possible denotations and connotations
    Explain the peculiarities of use in different contexts
    Provide examples
    Restate thesis statement
    Summarize main points
    Explain how you understand the term
    Provide a general conclusion

How to write a definition essay fast just in 3 steps

Writing an essay usually consists of the three logical stages; namely, prewriting, drafting an essay, and proofreading.


The prewriting stage includes all you should before you actually get to essay writing. To create a comprehensive definition essay do the following

        Choose the term

The first step is choosing the right term. It is an important step, as not any term will fit your assignment. Thus, read the instruction first and then choose what you want to write about and what can be covered within the assigned word count. Make sure that the term you choose is interesting for you as well as relevant in terms of the course. Also, make sure that you understand the concept you are going to cover.

        Conduct research on the topic

After you have chosen the topic, do not forget to make a research on it to be sure there is enough information available. Sometimes, the topic is too narrow. In such a case, you can either choose some collocations with this word or change the term. If the term is too broad, you can discuss only some of its meanings or usages.

Research is also necessary to help you understand the topic and relevant terms better. Check the word meaning in several dictionaries as well as its etymology.

        Choose the approach

Choose the approach that will help you explain the term better. There are five common approaches: denotation, connotation, enumeration, analysis, and negation. You can either choose only one approach or combine several.

        Draft thesis statement

Thesis statement is the main idea of an essay. In case of definition paper it is the general definition of the term you are going to cover in your paper.

        Create an outline

The last step of the prewriting stage is creating an outline. Outline is the plan of an essay. You express all the main points you want to discuss, logically organize them, and when writing an essay, just develop each idea.



Wring the paper includes introduction, thesis statement, main body paragraphs, and conclusion. Do not miss any of these structural part, as an essay will be incomplete if one is missing.

        How to write an introduction for a definition essay

An introduction is the very first part a reader sees. Thus, it should be catchy and interesting. To entice the reader into reading the essay to the end, start with a hook. It can be an interesting unknown fact related to the term, statistics, or a provocative question. Then specify the term you are going to discuss and provide some background information on it.  Finish your introduction with a thesis statement.

        How to write a good thesis for a definition essay

A thesis statement is the main idea of the paper. In case of a definition essay, it is the definition of the term you are going to cover. However, do not just provide a definition from the dictionary. For example, you can choose the definition which you think is the most pertinent or provide your own definition of a term.

        Main body

In the body paragraphs provide all the possible definitions of the term and its usages. Do not forget to provide examples for a better understanding.

Make sure to provide only one main point per paragraph. Also, each paragraph should support and develop the idea expressed in a thesis statement.

        How to conclude a definition essay

In the conclusion part, restate your thesis statement and summarize the main points covered in paper. However, do not copy-paste sentences or repeat ideas, you should synthesize. Also, in the conclusion part, you may provide your own definition or explain how you perceive the term. The essay should end with general summary

        Creating a catchy title

It is recommended to create a title after you have completed the paper. When you start writing, you only have a general idea of your essay. But when you are already done with your definition essay, you know all the details and can choose a pertinent title.

3.Editing and proofreading

The last stage of essay writing is editing. Always leave yourself few minutes for checking the paper for any grammar, formatting, and stylistic mistakes. They can spoil the general impression about your essay. Also, check your paper for accidental plagiarism, as it can cost you a grade.

20 Good Definition essay topics 2020

If you do not know what to write your essay about, check out the list of definition essay topics. You can find some good ideas. 

word topics written in different colours

  1. What is love
  2. What is happiness to you
  3. What is family
  4. Definition of happiness
  5. What is emotional intelligence
  6. Parental love
  7. What is unconditional love
  8. What is Cancel Culture
  9. Who is a strong leader
  10. What is #BlackLivesMatter
  11. What is e-commerce
  12. What is independence
  13. Who is a professional
  14. Who is good teacher
  15. Who is a good vacation
  16. What is an exciting trip
  17. What is a free time
  18. What is care
  19. What is COVID-19
  20. What is Cancel Culture

Definition essay examples 

If you need to look at the example of a definition essay to have a full picture, we have prepared good definition essay examples for your inspiration

Example 1

Definition essay on morality


Example 2

Definition essay example 2

Definition essay on Emotional intelligence 


Sample definition essay 3

Definition essay on Courage 


 Common definition essay mistakes you should avoid 

Check the list of the most common mistakes to avoid them an get high grades. The most common mistakes are

  1. Choosing the term you do not understand and cannot explain
  2. Choosing a too broad or narrow term
  3. Providing wrong definition
  4. Providing definition without your explanations
  5. Giving too many details
  6. Repeating one definition throughout the whole paper 

Need a definition essay asap?

If you are not sure you can define the term clearly, not good at essay writing, or just do not have enough free time. Resort to professional writers assistance. We will complete a clear and comprehensive essay based on you instructions within several hours.