Definition essay

Definition Essay: Guide and Examples

There are many types of essays. In fact, there is a whole book devoted to the subject matter on what differentiates 50 different kinds of essays from each other. However, this article will focus on one specific type-the definition essay.

What is a Definition Essay?

Definition Essay: A definition essay is an informative piece where the writer explains or defines a particular term or concept.

A definition essay can be written in many different ways. For instance, there are personal, informative, comparative, and descriptive definitions essay types.

There is also the matter of tone; definition essays can be formal or informal in tone depending on what kind of audience you intend to write for and what your purpose is for writing it.

In all cases, a definition essay is an informative piece that must be developed around a central idea or concept that the writer wishes to convey.

Difference Between Definition Essay and Other Essays

A definition essay has many similarities with other types of essays; it can also be compared to an in-depth research paper. But what differentiates the definition essay from other essays is that it must be focused on a specific concept or term. The definition must be clear and concise, written in simple enough terms for your audience to understand.

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The Following are the Guidelines for Writing a Successful Definition Essay:

1. Identify the purpose of your essay– what do you intend to write about? Do you want to define a term? Do you need to explain an idea or concept?

2. Research– make use of the dictionary, internet, books, and journals to collect information about your topic. Make sure that all sources are documented properly in your paper.

3. Understand– keep in mind that your reader does not know anything about the topic you are writing about. You have to educate them accordingly without being condescending. Your tone should be engaging and friendly yet informative enough for people reading it to understand your message.

4. Find a central idea– focus on one main idea only; do not introduce multiple ideas for your readers to think about. Your paper should be simple, not complex.

5. Organize-you can write a definition essay in the order of steps (first this happened, then that), chronological (this happens before that) or depending on the hierarchy of ideas (most important to least important).

6. Use transitions-connect your paragraphs with transitional words.

7. Include the dictionary definition– your readers may not be familiar with the term or concept you are writing about. You have to provide them with the definition of the term at some point in your essay. You can add your own definition in a different paragraph, though.

8. Avoid unnecessary information. Only include relevant facts, statistics, and quotations directly related to your essay’s central idea; do not waste your time and the readers’ time by including areas that do not pertain to the main topic.

9. Have an engaging thesis statement-make your thesis statement interesting with a question or an unexpected idea; be specific yet thoughtful when writing your thesis statement.

10. Write in simple language-avoid using big words and complicated sentence structure; break up long sentences into smaller sentences.

11. Edit and proofread– Have a trusted professional go over your finished essay to check for punctuation, spelling, grammar, and sentence structure errors.

How to Write a Definition Essay

The challenge of writing a definition essay is to convince the reader that you understand what you are attempting to define. To achieve this goal, you will need to gather a strong body of research and support your ideas with details that leave no doubt in the reader’s mind.

The process of writing a definition essay starts from choosing a topic, ending with proofreading.

Choosing a Topic for Your Essay

This is the first step in writing a definition essay. You must choose a topic that has enough information available to give your research direction. In the case of this type of essay, you will need to conduct research and gather information about your topic.

While choosing a topic, ensure that the topic:

  • Is interesting and engaging
  • Has enough information available so that you can research it easily
  • Is not too broad or narrow for your essay to be manageable

On occasion, teachers may give a theme or idea and ask students to write a definition essay based on that theme. It can be an interesting experience for you, trying to come up with enough information to support your definition.

Examples of definition essay topics are:

  • A hero
  • Love
  • The five senses
  • A beginning swimmer

A Definition Essay Outline

As with all essays, you will need an outline before you start writing. The purpose of the outline is to give order and direction to your ideas and information. It will also help you in the process of proofreading and revising, allowing you to check that each sentence works in the overall essay structure.

The basic definition essay structure will usually be:


The definition essay introduction will present your topic to the reader. It should be interesting, engaging, and grab the reader’s attention so that they will want to keep reading.

The introduction paragraph of a definition essay includes the following:

A sentence that presents the topic of your essay for the reader

One or two sentences with basic facts about the topic

An engaging thesis statement – make sure the definition essay thesis statement conveys all you will talk about in your essay.

Use a question or an unexpected idea to engage readers. Be specific, too, so that they know exactly what you are talking about.

Body paragraphs

The body of your essay is where you will explore the details and facts related to your topic. This is where you should use any other sources that you have gathered during your research and give opinions or other details that help explain what you’ve already written about.

Each body paragraph should contain:

A topic sentence that clearly states the main point of that paragraph

Evidence from your research to support the topic sentence

An explanation of the evidence, explaining how it proves what you’re talking about.

The conclusion

The conclusion is where you pull all your ideas together and make a final statement – think of it as wrapping up your essay.

In conclusion, you might summarize the main points of your essay, restate your thesis statement or ask a question. You can even give an opinion about what you have written in the body of the paper.

Edit and Proofread

Once you have finished writing your extended definition essay, it’s time to edit and proofread for errors.

  • Read through carefully for grammatical errors or misspellings, make corrections as needed.
  • Check your essays against the assigned word count to see if it is within the prescribed length.
  • Proofread for typos, grammar, and spelling mistakes
  • Review any reference materials you have used during your research, ensuring that you have followed all copyright rules
  • Do not forget to cite your references, which you have used for this essay.
  • Your body paragraphs should each present a clear, well-supported idea about the topic. Each paragraph should support one main point that relates to your thesis statement. Remember that documentation is important to academic writing, so be sure to document everything you use from other sources.
  • Conclusion of definition essay must end with a restatement of your thesis statement.
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  • Both proofreading and editing
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Definition Essay Examples.

Example 1

Write a definition essay basing on the following writing prompt.

What is peace?

Peace is inner tranquility, a state of being free from disturbance, agitation, anxiety, or fear. Peace may be experienced or achieved in various ways, such as through religion or spirituality, art or music, or other means.

For spiritual teachers from all different traditions, the nature of peace is that it exists within oneself and does not need to be fought for externally. In essence, there are two routes to achieving a state of peace: either people can seek peace within themselves, or they can look outwardly to the external world, but both routes ultimately lead to the same destination.

The term peace originates from the Anglo-French “pes,” Old French “pais,” which means “peace, reconciliation, silence, agreement,” and from the Late Latin “pax,” which means “a cessation of movement or activity.”

Culturally, peace is a bond or agreement between individuals to avoid conflict in their interactions with one another. People can live together harmoniously by avoiding behaviours that are likely to create conflict and violence. The term “peacemaker” is found in many cultures and describes those who make treaties and agreements, settle disputes, and avoid violence.

A common understanding of peace is that it is the presence of something rather than the absence of something else. That is, if one were to remove fear, then there would be peace. One interpretation of this idea could be that ‘peace equals freedom from fear.’ This means that if one sees fear as a negative thing, then peace would be seen as the absence of fear. However, it may be interesting to note that the Latin word “timere” means ‘to tremble.’

In conclusion, the term peace not only applies to the state of an area but also implies a state of mind and can be achieved through many different methods.

Example 2

Write a definition essay basing on the following writing prompt.

Define love.

Love is a type of affection or tenderness that one feels for another person. Love can be an emotion of strong attachment, admiration, and nearness felt by lovers. Being in love is when two people are dating and make a commitment to be together. When two people are in love, they usually do things with each other, like going on dates or spending time together.

Love is an important part of life because it brings joy and happiness into the world by bringing people together. Without love, there wouldn’t be romance, relationships, intimacy, or children.

I started with defining love between romantic partners, which is actually called “eros.” This type of love is sexual and romantic. There are other types of love as well, such as “pragma (enduring love), ludus (playful love), agape (universal love), philia (deep friendship), philautia (self-love), storge (familial love), and mania (obsessive love).

Pragma love, also called “enduring love,” is the type of love people feel for each other when they have been with one another long enough to know what they like and dislike. Pragma is a form of natural compatibility.

Ludus love is playful or flirtatious lovers’ game, not serious or requiring much commitment from either party. There can be a certain amount of commitment, as it is often between people looking forward to a committed relationship.

Agape love is universal or unconditional love that exists without discriminating or prioritizing. This type of love requires emotional depth and intensity. It also means “willing the good of the other.” Caring about someone’s well-being is a key aspect of agape love.

Philia love develops between two people who share common interests or activities, like playing on the same soccer team. This type of love has nothing to do with romance or intimacy. It is just about being good friends. Philia is also considered brotherly love when it comes to family members.

Storge love also called “familial love” is the type of love that exists between family members. This type of love is unconditional and based on the fact that family members share common blood.

Mania love is obsessive or possessive in nature and has a strong need for control. It is an intense, compelling force that makes lovers want to be constantly together. If their relationship doesn’t work out, they can become depressed and even violent. This type of love often leads to a dependency between the two people involved.

In many ways, love is an important part of life because it brings joy and happiness into this world. Without love, there wouldn’t be romance or intimacy. It is one’s responsibility to protect their loved ones and do everything they can to keep them safe. Love is what makes the world go round, for, without it, life would be meaningless and uneventful. Thus, love is an immeasurable force that should not only be cherished but celebrated as well.

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