The Outline Of Definition Essay Example

Contents

What is a Definition Essay?

A definition essay works to provide the nitty-gritty details about a word or concept.  For example, in an art class, you may be asked to write a definition essay on Vermillion (a vivid reddish-orange color) or Cubism, a specific approach to creating art.  A definition essay should always focus on a complex subject; simple subjects won’t provide enough details to adequately write an essay.  While the subject may change, the structure of an essay remains the same.  All definition essays should include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Types of Definition Essays

Professors often assign definition essays towards the beginning of a class. The focus of this type of essay is to explore a specific concept.  These concepts are often divided into one of three categories:

In this type of essay, the assignment explores how to fully define a difficult topic. By definition, an abstract concept is one that is vast and complicated. Examples of abstract concepts include liberty, ambition, love, hate, generosity, and pride. The focus of the essay should be to break down the concept into more manageable parts for the audience.

Definition essays that focus on a place tend to explore a specific type of place and how you as the writer view this particular place. Types of places which may be assigned are a country, state, city, neighborhood, park, house, or a room. The place may be huge or small. A key to writing a good definition essay focused on the place is to select a specific place you are familiar with; it shouldn’t be a place you need to research — it should be a place that you know intimately.An Adjective

An adjective essay focuses on creating a definition for an adjective. Common topics may include describing a “good” or “bad” friend, present, or law. The focus of the essay should explore the qualities and characteristics of a good friend or a bad present.

Perfecting the Definition Essay Outline – and Beyond!

Before sitting down to write a definition essay, you’ll need to make out all the parts to the whole.  In other words, how, exactly, will you define the subject of the essay?  You’ll need to consider all the different parts, or the gears, that make the clock work.  Once you’ve brainstormed the parts, you’re ready to create an outline, and then write some paragraphs. The outline for this essay is as easy as in five paragraph essay – it contains an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.  The number of body paragraphs is determined by how many aspects you’re subject needs defined.  This type of essay is exactly what it sounds like: it works to define a specific word or concept.

Take Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s advice when writing:  “Never say more than is necessary.”

So, here is what constitutes the outline of the definition essay:

Introduction Paragraph

An introduction paragraph should act as a gateway to the subject of the definition essay.  Use this paragraph to gently introduce the subject, and gain the reader’s interest.  This paragraph should begin with an attention getter (the “hook”) that makes the reader curious and want to read more.  Quotations are always a great idea as are interesting facts.  Next, provide background details that the reader will need to understand the concept or idea to be defined in the body paragraphs.

Unlike other papers, like cause and effect essay, the definition essay is unique in that it requires the writer to provide the dictionary definition of the word, and then the thesis definition.  Since dictionary definitions are often dry and narrow, the thesis definition is your opportunity truly encompass the complexity of the word.

Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph should focus on a different aspect that contributes to the overall definition of the subject being discussed in the definition essay.

A definition essay typically contains three body paragraphs, although there can be more if the writer desires.  The first body paragraph delves into the origin of the word and how it became mainstreamed into the language.  This paragraph can talk about any root words, prefixes, and/or suffixes in the word, as well as the evolution of the word (if there is one).

  • The Denotative Definition Paragraph

The second body paragraph should focus on the dictionary definition, and how the word can be used in writing and conversation.  For example, love can appear as several different parts of speech; it can be a noun, verb, or adjective.

  • The Connotative Definition Paragraph

The third body paragraph, and often the longest one, should focus on conveying the writer’s definition of the word.  This definition should be based on both the writer’s personal experience as well as research.  Don’t be afraid to be bold – describe this word in a way that no one else has!  Be original; describe the word as a color or animal, and defend your choice.  Provide examples of the word in action and maintain the reader’s engagement at all costs.  Aim for sentences like this:

Quixotic describes the eternal quest of optimistic individuals striving to find the magical, the visionary, the idealistic experiences in life despite all obstacles and naysayers.

This exists as an excellent sentence because it provides clues as to the type of word quixotic is by pairing it with magical, visionary, and idealistic.  By stating that it’s a word optimistic individuals would gravitate towards, the audience inherently understands it’s more positive than negative. Indeed, the third body paragraph should focus on communicating the writer’s comprehension of the concept, idea or term.

Conclusion Paragraph

Just because this is the shortest paragraph, doesn’t mean that it will be the easiest to write.  In fact, the better the body paragraphs are, the easier writing the conclusion paragraph will be.  Why?  Because a good conclusion paragraph reiterates the main points stated in each body paragraph.  If the body paragraphs are clear and avoid rambling, pulling the main ideas for the conclusion will be easy!  Just remember: you don’t want to repeat yourself word for word, but you do want to echo your main ideas; so summarize yourself instead of copy and pasting.

Many professors may create the definition essay as a personal writing assignment.  If this is the case, then it would be appropriate to also discuss what the word or concept means personally to you.  Select an example in your own life and validate your descriptions of the word.

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Definition Essay Outline Example

Once you got the concept of your future essay wrapped up, it’s time to put things to the practice and create an outline. Here is what your outline might look like. Our topic is:  Love.

  • Introduction. Thesis: While different cultures define the concept of love differently, most cultures will agree that love exists as a positive, yet broad concept that has fueled humans since the dawn of time.
  • Topic Sentence 1.  While the Ancient Greeks, Chinese, and Persian cultures all approached love differently, they also shared many similar attitudes towards love.
  • Topic Sentence 2.  The denotative definition of love includes 7 noun definitions and 6 verb definitions; this highlights the complex nature of love as a concept.
  • Topic Sentence 3. Modern society is fueled by the idea of love whether in intrapersonal, interpersonal, or business relationships.
  • Conclusion.  Love affects every aspect of the human experience and has since the beginning of time.

Definition Essay Sample

Be sure to check the sample essay, completed by our writers. Use it as an example to write your own argumentative essay. Link: Essay sample: Team Norms and Procedures.

Tips on Writing a Definition Essay from Our Experts

Need some advice from our professional writers? We’ve got you covered.  Here are some great tips on how to write an A-level definition essay:

  1. When writing a definition essay, keep the sentences simple when you can; however, occasionally, you’ll need to create longer, more descriptive sentences.  Consider juxtaposing short sentences with longer ones to maintain reader interest.
  2. Incorporate literary devices when trying to define an abstract word or concept. Check out this example:  Love is a campfire on a chilly November evening.  Its warmth glides over your entire being, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes – but watch out: get too close, and you’ll catch fire and burn.
  3. Stuck on deciding on a topic? If you get to select your own topic, remember that selecting an abstract topic is best: love, forgiveness, contentment, or hero are all great options.  Don’t fall into the trap of selecting a topic with too many aspects to define such as the history of man.
  4. Select a topic that allows plenty of original description – that’s the goal: to describe a concept in such a way that hasn’t been done before. Be original:  state the history and the original of the word and then delve into your perception of it.
  5. Finally, begin early.  Create an outline to help organize your idea, and then begin the research process to determine the origin of the word as well its evolution.  Consider answering such questions as who created the word (Did you know Shakespeare coined the words lonely and majestic?), how it has evolved, and whether it has multiple parts of speech.  The more questions you answer, the more definition will be put into your essay!

Guides


In a definition essay, you explain the meaning of a certain term by giving a detailed description of it, and support your definition with clear examples or facts. Such explanations are needed if a term is special, abstract, disputed, or does not have a common meaning. For instance, individuals can interpret the definition of the words ‘freedom’ or ‘abuse’ quite differently.

Steps for Writing a Definition Essay

  1. Choose a term you want to define, and introduce it to your readers. This can be done in several ways, but your main goal at the outset is to indicate the contents of your paper clearly.
  2. Use several sources (dictionaries or encyclopedias) to see how the term you have chosen is usually defined. Then, think of a way to combine or merge them to give your own, unique definition.
  3. Present the term you’ve chosen to your readers in the introductory part of your paper.
  4. In the main body paragraphs, provide your readers with information about the term. Along with your own description, you can point out some cases in which this term is used, as well as historical information about its origins and the evolution of its use in literature. Also, you can highlight any common mistakes in its definition.
  5. Think of a couple of sound examples that will fully illustrate and explain your definition.

Definition Essay Topics

There are plenty of terms we use every day. Many of them are clear to almost everybody, but still there is a vast body of abstract or scientific terms that can become a topic of discussion. While all of us know what a phone, TV, or dog is, concepts such as happiness, faith, love, or calmness may be difficult for some people to grasp. Some terms that could be chosen as a topic for your definition essay are listed below:

  • Laziness
  • Success
  • Marriage
  • Family
  • Real estate
  • Attitude
  • Love
  • Religion
  • Christianity
  • Endurance
  • Love
  • God
  • Hatred
  • Beauty
  • Morale
  • Good and evil
  • Enlightenment
  • Happiness
  • Confidence
  • Intelligence

Key Points to Consider

  1. Giving a definition is not just copying what has been written in other dictionaries. If you cannot define a new meaning for some concept on your own, then use the definition that already exists, but give your own interpretation of it.
  2. Choose terms you understand, or ones that have impacted your own personal experience. Do not try to define a term you don’t understand, or else you will confuse your readers with the wrong explanation.
  3. You can define a term by explaining its functions, structure, or nature. You can also define the term by specifying what it does not mean, or by comparing it with other members of the same class of words and emphasizing the differences.
  4. Follow a determined structure. It would be logical to present your term in the introduction, give extended explanations in the main body paragraphs, and end with brief conclusions.

Do and Don’t

Do
  • Do narrow the term if it has an excessively wide meaning. For instance, you might need to write many pages to define the term ‘fear’ adequately, but if you limit your topic to ‘panic fear,’ it will be much easier for you to craft your essay.
  • Do look for solid transitions to connect the parts of your essay together.
  • Do try to think of a definition that would be uniquely yours. Don’t be afraid to be creative in giving non-standard explanations—that approach should be encouraged.
  • Do proofread your essay carefully to avoid factual mistakes.
Don’t
  • Don’t use definitions like: ‘X is when’ or ‘Y is where.’ Try to make you definitions look more scientific. For example, compare these two definitions: “Totalitarianism is when the state tries to control the society” and “Totalitarianism is a political regime which presumes that the state holds authority over society and controls various aspects of its life such as….”
  • Don’t try to write a paper on too narrow of a topic or a well-known, obvious term.
  • Do not write in an overly-detailed manner. However, don’t be too brief either. Consider the word limit of your essay before you begin writing.
  • Don’t repeat the defined term within the bounds of the definition itself. No one will appreciate your prose if you write along the lines of “Swine flu is a flu that people can catch from swines.”

Common Mistakes When Writing a Definition Essay

– Trying to define a term that is too broad in scope for the essay.

– Forgetting to emphasize the term that one is defining. In this case, it may be hard for readers to understand what your essay is ultimately about.

– Writing about terms that are well-known and which do not have conflicting interpretations.

– Ignoring the necessity of examples. No matter how detailed and clear your definition is, without concrete examples, it may be difficult for readers to understand how or when a certain term should be used.

– Copying the existing definition word-by-word. Instead, reinterpret the meaning. Do not be afraid to use your own thoughts for a new, unique definition.

Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic definition essay writing tips and rules, you can check out our definition essay samples to link theory with practice.

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Samples for Writing a Definition Essay

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