How to Write a Definition Essay

It is good to understand what is a definition essay before you start writing it. A definition essay is a type of essay where you are required to define a particular term in order to explain it to your audience. Most of the terms given as topics for definition essay are prone to be misunderstood by people, hence clarification of the term is necessitated in the essay. You should be able to give a good definition of the term to the satisfaction of your readers.

Meaning of what is a definition essay

Different papers usually have different needs, but when it comes to a definition in a paper, you have to be precise on the meaning of a word to facilitate understanding of the reader. You can achieve to persuade your reader by giving illustrations and references for your work. It is essential to be unique when you plan to write definition; you should not express the meaning using the same words used by another version; be unique in your content. Before you get to writing a definition essay, you have to ensure that you understand the meaning of the term completely because some terms are confusing, and you may end up writing out of the topic. You should be confident in your description, because when it comes to defining terms, you cannot gamble on the meaning of a term, you need to present facts that would convince the reader. To come up with great content for your essay you have to adhere to the following tips:

  • Stick to the grammar rules – you can only express yourself well through good English. In case you start messing up with the simple grammar and spelling errors, then you end up losing meaning for your words. You should beware of the tenses in English and know when to use different tenses in your essay. Once you mix up the tenses, you will end up making your work boring to the reader.
  • Be persuasive in your writing – you should be able to persuade your reader that indeed the description given is the meaning of the term. Once your reader has doubts about your expressions, you will automatically fail in the paper. To facilitate understanding of the reader, you should go step by step while defining terms.
  • Avoid using too much vocabulary in your work – the main aim of a definition essay is to ensure that you enlighten your audience on the meaning of the term. Most of the topics for definition essays are usually based on contradictory terms, and therefore your role as a writer is to ensure that you give a simple clarification. The moment you start to employ in too much of vocabulary in your work, you are complexing the meaning of the term, and you will have failed to meet the paper needs. It is good to use simple terms because your main target is that the reader gets to understand the meaning of the term.
  • Ensure that you emphasize the term you are defining – you should be able to emphasize the term you are describing in your essay so that the reader cannot get lost in your illustrations. Once you give a definition, you will always come up with illustrations, and once you fail to remind the reader of what you were defining, they are likely to get lost along the way.
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Types of definitions – simplified

You should be aware of the available types of definitions in essay writing. We do know that a definition is a description of a term using other terms, but there are a variety of definitions that you should classify your essay into to suit the recommended format. A definition is categorized into two main sub-categories: extensional and intensional definitions.

  1. Intensional definitions – this is a type of definition that categorizes things when they are inclusive of a certain trait. A good example of an intensional definition is insects are small animals that have six legs. We can see that any animal with six legs can be classified into insects. When an object is defined using a certain characteristic, and they happen to share in a group, then that is intensional definition. An intensional definition is further divided into small classes, namely:
  • The genus – you are likely to come across terms that have the same definition yet they are different. This group of words is said to belong to the same genus.
  • The differentia – these words are definitions that are more generalized. A good example for such is a square is a quadrilateral, and at the same time, a rectangle is a quadrilateral because they both are four-sided figures.
  1. Extensional definitions – this is a naming list that clarifies all the members belonging to a particular family. Unlike intensional definition, extensional definition majorly focuses on the general view of a term. There are different types of extensional definitions:
  • Ostensive definition – this type of definition gives the meaning of a term through illustrations. A good example is when you name a hyena “the greedy one,” by doing this you will be referring to the hyena but indirectly through what it is known for by people.
  • Enumerative definition – this type of definition defines objects exhaustively falling under one term.

It is good to be conversant with the different types of definitions, so that once you are allocated a topic to write about, you will be able to categorize the right classification for your topic and stick to its recommendations on writing.

When studying at high school and throughout college, you will be asked to write research papers. We have a proper guide on how to write a qualitative research paper.

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Tips on how to start a definition essay

The beginning of every paper is usually critical because it is the first impression that the reader is going to get about your work. When you mess up with a start, then be sure that the reader would lose interest in the rest of the work. When starting your paper, you should be certain to attract full attention of the reader. The idea here is being interesting in your introductory paragraph; the reader should see the need to continue with the rest of your work. You should adhere to the following guidelines while writing your definition essay:

  • Choose from words that you are conversant with – while giving your definition you should use words that are easy to understand so that you can express your term with ease.
  • Select a concept – in giving your definition, you should be selective in word choice in that a word should represent a certain idea or concept.
  • You should learn how to create a definition – there are several ways to bring out the definition of terms in an essay:
  1. You can define by structure- while describing using structure you should be in a position to tell how something is organized.
  2. You can define by analysis – when analyzing a word, you should look for similarities and differences of the word with references to the family that it belongs. While analyzing a word, you can simply break it down and explain each term separately.
  3. You can define by function – in this type of definition, you are required to explain a term by its functionality and show your audience how it works.
  4. Lastly, you can define a term by what it does not mean – you can choose to define a specific subject by giving essay meanings that are not meant for it, so that elimination applies. This style is called negation; as a good writer, you should know how to use negation in your work.
  • Use several illustrations and evidence in your essay – you should be able to support your explanation using relevant examples to win the mind of the reader. Choose from examples that would be most appealing to your reader. You should also ensure that the examples given match the definition lest you bring about confusion in your paper. Understanding how to add illustrations to your paper is key to writing a perfect essay.
  • Use facts that can be understood – while presenting your arguments you should mainly rely on facts because opinion is not embraced in this type of paper.
  • Understand your audience – it is good to understand your audience as a writer so that you can give an explanation that matches their level. If your targeted readers are children, for instance, you should avoid complex words because most of the children don’t know them yet and instead use simple expressions that they can easily understand.
  • Be certain to classify the word – tell your readers the part of speech that the word falls into so that they get to understand well about the word.

Read also: What is a good way to start essay?

Understanding the definition essay outline

Like all other essays, an extended definition essay contains the three main parts of an essay; the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.

The introduction

In the introduction, you should give the exact meaning of the word that you are writing about. It is good to start on with the basic meaning of the word then as you proceed to the body paragraphs you will be free to give your definition. Immediately after your introduction, you should give a thesis. A thesis is a short sentence that gives a brief overview of the body part of your essay; it mainly states what the reader should expect.

The body

The body is the main part of your essay that you should give more attention to. It is good to separate the ideas using paragraphs. A term can have several meanings, and so you should place every meaning into its paragraph. Start your paragraphs with topic sentences followed by a brief description of the word, then finish with illustration to support your description.

The conclusion

The conclusion is the last part of your essay and the most important in that case. In the concluding paragraph, you should give a summary of the main points in the body. In your conclusion, you should wrap up your thesis with the main points in the body paragraph. It is in the conclusion that you are to illustrate the importance of the definition and how it affects you or people, or include your personal experience on the term so that it appears more practical to the reader.

How to choose definition essay topics

The success of your paper starts from the topic that you choose. Some of the topics have very little to write about and therefore cannot sustain the length of your essay. You should consider the following while choosing your topic:

  • It is good to choose an abstract word that has a complex meaning – when you choose a word that has a direct meaning, then you are likely to miss on the illustration to write on in your essay. You should choose a word that has a general meaning so that you can get many points to write on in your essay.
  • Ensure the word is disputable – you should go for a term that is disputable so that you can get many views to write from in your paper. For a word to be disputable, it should have meanings that are similar to another term and hence brings about contradiction.
  • Choose a word that you are familiar with – in choosing the topic, you should go for a word that you are well conversant with so that you can easily explain it and give examples that match. It would be difficult to relate a word that you are not well familiar with; you may end up messing your work.
  • Research the word’s origin – before you get to writing on a word, be certain to find its origin and how the word was formed. By doing this, you will be illustrating to your reader that you know so much about the term and expose of your prowess.

As a writer, it is good to get exposed to different essay topics because it makes you advance in your writing skills. Some of the essay topics that you may be asked to handle include: My Home, University Education, My Best Teacher among others. You should be able to select the right topic if you plan on excelling in your essay.

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