Writing a Definition Essay – It’s Academic and It’s Personal

Posted: June 29, 2017 To: Study


The definition essay – is there even such a thing? You may not have written a definition essay in high school – it’s not a common assignment. And, so now you have such an assignment, and you are not really sure how to write a definition essay.

What is a Definition Essay?

As the name implies, you will be writing an essay in which you define something. You might be thinking that a dictionary defines most words in a very short amount of text. So how do you write a definition essay that will be the length of an actual essay? Actually, it can be done, if you understand how to do it. So here comes your definition essay guidance..

Start by Looking at Possible Definition Essay Topics (Words)

You will be looking for words that are abstract – words like truth, justice, love, friendship, democracy, socialism, and such. Topics for definition essay writing will not be concrete nouns like car or boat – those will just not be complex or what is known as “disputable,” meaning that people tend to have different viewpoints about it.

And you will have your own perspective too. That is why a definition essay is both personal and academic – you do have to follow the standard structure of an academic piece of writing.

The other piece of advice? Choose a word that you have some knowledge of. If you don’t, you will be doing research far beyond a dictionary and scouring the Internet looking for definition essay examples on that word or contacting a writing service to get a custom essay written by a pro.

Getting Ready to Write – Doing a Bit of Research

You can’t just pull an entire definition essay “out of the air” with just your own perspective. Because it is supposed to be an academic piece, you do have to have some factual information. So here is how you get that information.

  1. Start with the Dictionary

Look up the dictionary definition. Write it down. You’ll include it early in your essay.

  1. Look Up the Etymology

What is the origin of the word? This can add more insight but it is also just interesting information to include in your essay. “Democracy,” for example, has Greek roots – “Dem” means “people;” “cracy” means “rule by.”

  1. Look for Elements to Add to the Definition

The word “love” is loaded, as is the word “justice.” How many types of love are there, for example? There is platonic, romantic, and altruistic, to name just three. If you intend to write an effective definition essay, you need to look for all of a word’s elements and address them in your essay.

You are probably beginning to see how a definition can actually be a lengthy college essay piece.

You’re Ready to Write

  • Begin with the Outline

So, how to start a definition essay? You need to begin as you would with any other academic essay. You gather your information on the word and you craft a definition essay outline.

You outline should include the dictionary definition, the origin of the word, the elements of the word, and your personal perspective of the various elements and definitions that others may have. To get the definitions that others have and to respond to them, you may need to look at examples of definition essay pieces that others may have written.

  • Your Introduction

Don’t be boring. You probably want to introduce the dictionary definition early on, perhaps in your introduction. But before you do that (it’s boring), begin with something more engaging – perhaps an anecdote that introduces the word and that gives your personal definition of the word.

  • Follow Your Outline

This will be your first draft. And from this point forward, you need to do what you always should – review, edit, and polish the piece for final submission.

Your conclusion need not be complicated. Provide a good summary of your definition, based on the points of each of your paragraphs.

  • If You Struggle

If you have never written a definition essay before, you may have difficulty producing your first one. It might be a wise move to look at what essay writing services can do for you, if only to review what you have written and make suggestions and recommendations. Beyond that, if you have a reputable writing service that you have used, you may want buy essay online in this instance.