We often search for definition of a certain word or phrase in vocabularies or textbooks. What does definition usually look like? Commonly, definition is a clear explaining with some illustrative examples. Aim of any definition is to make us understand what a word or a concept means.

The same principle is applicable for definition essays. Their aim is to make reader understand what stands behind a word, term, phrase or concept.


Among huge variety of academic works, definition essay differs by its aim firstly. Definition essay serves the only aim: to explain meaning of something. We have already compared definition essay to those definitions that we can find in vocabularies or textbooks. However, definition essay has bigger size and includes more aspect of a word or concept it defines.

Definition essay may include several explanations, additional information and examples that will make understanding of a word fuller and clearer, than if you would just check it meaning in vocabulary.

The way you start and write your essay may depend on a group that explained word belongs to. Commonly linguists recognize following word groups according to their meaning:

  • Abstract;
  • Special;
  • Having multiple meanings;
  • Disputed;
  • Having no certain meaning (its meaning depends on a context or other factors).

Choosing a topic for your definition essay, avoid plain words with understandable meaning like “table”, “water” or “banana”. Do not make your essay plain and boring – try some broad concept instead. Words like “beauty”, “devotion”, “popularity” will allow you to create interesting ideas and express them in an exciting way. Such words can also be interpreted differently – use this feature to open more sides of word’s meaning.

Starting your explanation, mention official definition of a word. You can easily find it in vocabularies. Do not avoid of expressing your personal understanding of a word or a phrase. It would be also nice to add some of interesting examples that will illustrate your point of view on a word’s concept.

Most of students believe that writing a definition essay is an easy task. Unlike some other writing assignment, definition essay has smaller size and accurate guidelines. There is no need to raise any problematic points or to include specific details that may influence reader of an essay. However, writing a good definition essay also requires some specific knowledge and experience.


Start from selecting an interesting topic if your teacher did not assigned one for you. Do not choose simple words with specific meaning. Make sure that a concept or term that you are going to write about is complexed and interesting enough.

Perhaps, you will find some interesting information not only about word’s meaning or structure but also about its history, origin and usage. Be sure that your chosen word presents interesting concept – that will allow you to make your writing work long enough. According to common requirements, your essay shall be at least half a page long.
Remember that good examples will make your definition more interesting and understandable. Think about several sentences or explanations that can be used as bright and understandable examples.

Shortly, the whole process of creating definition essay can be described by several stages:

  1. Select a nice topic (a word or a phrase) that you are going to work with. Chose complex but understandable words. Avoid those variants that are not fully understandable for you.
  2. Check several sources to understand meaning of a word better. Write word’s definitions down, so you will have a quick access to them any time you need.
  3. Think about an introduction that will reveal most common meaning of word you that you chose.
  4. Create two or more paragraphs that will describe a word in details. Include some facts about word’s meaning, rules of usage, history, origin and problematic points like misinterpreting or incorrect usage that is common for a word.
  5. Write some good examples that will properly illustrate your word’s meaning.


Check a list of our tips that will make you perform your best on each stage of essay’s preparation:

  • Choose your topic smartly. Choice of your topic will influence the complete further process of work. Be sure your chosen word or phrase is meaningful and complicated enough to make your definition essay long and interesting. Remember, a short essay will not demonstrate your knowledge and your hard work properly.
  • Choose words with multiple meanings. It is easier to find more information about words that have several meanings depending on context. This will help you to create valuable definition essay.
  • Avoid universal words that are understandable and commonly used in different cultures.
  • Ignore those words or terms that you do not understand fully even if they look attractive or challenging to you.
  • Go further than a typical definition – check more facts about usage of a word in history, its origin and add some interesting data related to it.
  • Turn to official dictionaries to see some variants of word’s definition even if you feel like fully understanding what a word is about.


Common mistake of many student who write a definition essay is not writing outlines. Definitely, this type of essay is shorter and less complexed than other types. However, logical and clear structure is necessary for a definition essay as for any other writing work. Clear outlines will help you to keep logical structure and not to miss any important and interesting facts that you found during your primary search.

Despite short size of your text, make your definition essay include classic parts: introduction, body paragraph and summary or conclusion. Think about each part properly. You may find a good phrase, expression, word or idiom to be used in each part of your essay – don’t miss a chance to write them down to use properly while writing.

Introduction Part of a Definition Essay

First opening part shall be used to introduce a chosen word to your reader. It may include official explanation used in academic vocabularies. If you find several explanations that differ from each other – include some of them referring to different sources or combine them to make a fuller and more understandable definition. You can use electronic or online versions of dictionaries or vocabularies as well – this will save lots of time for you.

It is usually allowed to simplify definition or to adopt it for your target audience for better acceptance and understanding. If a word has two sides or can be interpreted as both a positive and a negative concept – mention that, it may interest your readers.

You can start your introduction part with a definition. However, it is also possible to add a hook for your readers if you want your work to appear more creative. Hook is a word or a phrase that will intrigue and catch attention of your target audience. If you are looking for a hooking beginning, you can use:

  • Interesting facts;
  • Extract from statistics;
  • Quote of a famous person or a short extract from a book;
  • Simile;
  • Unusual metaphor;
  • Joke;
  • Dogma.

Words with deep meaning will give you a wide space for demonstrating your creativity and excellent writing skills. Using non-specific words or phrases for your topic, you can combine vocabulary definition with your own understanding and feeling of a word.

Thesis or Standard Essay Types

Basically, there are two general types of definition essay writing. According to specific requirements, it can be Thesis or Standard definition essay. Standard definition includes explanation of a word as it is usually presented in vocabularies. Thesis definition may include all aspects of a word’s meaning, including your personal attitude and understanding of it.
A good variant for making your essay excellent – is to combine features of standard and thesis essay – if your teacher does not require other.

Standard thesis is not a necessary part for a definition essay. Using thesis is necessary for those essays where you have to prove your opinion to your readers. However, definition essay has clearly informative character and does not require writing a thesis.

Body Paragraph of Definition Essay

Body paragraph of definition essay has nearly the same structure as other essay types have. Its main aim is presenting facts and information logically. There’s no certain need in writing your ideas in a specific order, however, it’s better to be sure that each separate and important though has its own paragraph and illustrated with clear examples.
Check an approximate structure of a body paragraph of definition essay below:

  1. Claim 1: Include most common definition of a word, illustrate and analyze it, using some examples.
  2. Claim 2: Demonstrate another interesting aspect of a word’s meaning, use examples to support your idea.
  3. Claim 3: If a word you chose has another meaning, mention it in a new paragraph, adding some examples that will excellently demonstrate this variant of word’s interpretation.

Other topics and issued that can be used in definition essay body paragraph:

  • History of a word and its origin;
  • Dictionary explanation and spheres of usage;
  • Personal understanding of a word.

Conclusion/Summary of Definition Essay

Conclusion of definition essay does not have any specific features. Conclusion is a short summary of information written above. It is also wise to mention some facts about influence of a word or concept on author’s life or attitude to certain situations. You can also address and answer you hook question in conclusion if you use one in the beginning of your essay.


Using examples it is important to choose those phrases and sentences that clearly explain what a word can mean. Sometimes, you can find good examples in fictional literature or think about good illustrative phrases on your own.


Choice of a great topic can influence quality of the whole writing work. We have gathered several topics that can be chosen for your definition essay or serve as a great inspirational example.

Topics of Definition Essay for College

  1. Healthy Life: elements standing behind the concept.
  2. Worthy Job: which features a job shall have to be satisfactory.
  3. Second language: importance of learning foreign languages.
  4. Qualified Professor: different concepts standing behind academic degree.
  5. Happy Family Life.
  6. College Degree: its importance for a person.
  7. Platonic Love.
  8. Freedom.
  9. Online Education.
  10. Winning Work.

Argument Essay Topics for Definition Essay

  1. Social responsibility: its meaning for a member of modern community.
  2. Racial Equality: understanding of the concept.
  3. Fair Elections: how to make Presidential Elections fair.
  4. Official Language: English language as an official language of multinational society.
  5. Death Penalty: how necessary it is.
  6. Minor Cheating: which effect it may have.
  7. Massive Crimes: reasons and ways of prevention.
  8. Smartphones: pros and cones of using smartphones.
  9. Creationism: necessary innovation in school program.
  10. Smoking: healthcare aspects and definitions.

Extended Topics for Definition Essay

  1. Confidence.
  2. Privacy.
  3. Modesty.
  4. Sincerity.
  5. Freedom of choice.
  6. Honor.
  7. Generosity.
  8. Motivation.
  9. Parenting.
  10. Friendship.

Common Topics for Definition Essay

  1. Modern Hero: features necessary for being a hero nowadays.
  2. Success: what stands behind the concept.
  3. True Love: how to recognize true feeling.
  4. Beauty: multiple interpretation of beauty.
  5. Happiness: derivative concept of being happy.
  6. Respect: how it can be explained and demonstrated.
  7. General definition of loyalty.
  8. Courage: true definition of courage.
  9. Friendship: special form of human cooperation.
  10. Hate: its reasons and motives.


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