How to Write a Definition Essay (Guide with Topics and Outline)

Are you struggling with writing your definition essay? Go through these step by step guide on how to write a definition essay with an outline and topics

In general, students face challenges in writing academic essays. This is considering that essay writing requires the use of some difficult terms and in-depth research. However, some assignments are easy.

What is a Definition Essays?

Definition essays are a good example of uncomplicated essays. The purpose of a definition essay is defining a term. This does not involve just copying meaning from a dictionary. Instead, you are required to write a personal definition of the chosen term. You must provide a thorough definition. Additionally, the definition must be supported by examples.

Definition Essay Writing Process

In order to write a good definition essay, start by selecting a term. Then provide a detailed definition of the term. Finally, polish your essay to ensure it doesn’t have any errors. This ensures that your paper has a good flow.

In this article, we are going to provide useful tips for writing a definition essay without any challenges. Read through to learn more.

3 Steps to Writing an Excellent Definition Essay

  • Select a term to define

The first step to writing a definition essay is selecting a term you would like to define. The word should describe an idea or a concept. For instance, you may choose freedom, equality, or justice. Such terms are open enough to enable you to create a personal definition that is based on your experience.

Though, other sources such as encyclopedias and dictionaries can help in creating your unique meaning.

Note that concrete things such as house, book, or bowl can be hard to use in writing a definition essay. You may only find limited information to write about such objects. Therefore, you should avoid them.

Also, choose a word that is familiar to you. Selecting a word you understand will make it easy to write your essay. For instance, you may choose the word pain because you are familiar with it and you have much to write about it.

Finally, select a word that has many meanings. A word that has different meanings to various people. This will create a room for including interpretation of other people as well as your own understanding of the term.

  • Define Your Word

The first step towards defining your word is knowing its official definition. Look up the word in a dictionary. Encyclopedias will help know the origin of the word. Look for an article that discusses the word.

Also, get a personal viewpoint of the word by interviewing friends, and family.

Then, use your own experienced plus the information from your research to create your personal definition of your word.

  • Write The 5 Parts of a Definition Essay

Normally, a definition essay has five parts. Your instructor will guide you on the number of sections your essay should have.

How to Write a Definition Essay: Outline and Format

Definition Essay: Introduction

In this section, provide an introduction to your word. Then, provide the reader with the standard definition of your term. Use dictionaries and encyclopedias to reference the definition. For instance, you may start your sentence by writing, ‘Oxford dictionary defines the term justice as equitableness’.

Also, in this section, include a thesis statement. This is your own definition of the word.  The definition should be a result of research and personal experiences. For example,

Thesis statement: Based on my personal experiences and my research, the word justice means acting in a morally right manner.

Definition Essay Body

This section is divided into three parts, namely;

  • History of your “definition word”

This is the second part of your definition essay. Here you discuss the origin of the word. Consider the root of your word as well as how the word came into use.

  • Definition of the word

This is the third section of your essay. Here, you go deeper into analyzing the dictionary definition of your word. The purpose of this section is exploring the deeper meaning of the word. Then compare and contrast your word with other words.

For instance, you may compare the word justice with righteousness showing how they are similar yet different.

  • Provide your own definition

This is the fourth section of your definition essay. You discuss the definition of the word from your own perspective and also from your research. For instance, you may describe the word based on childhood memories. Then, you may consider the interviews you help with other people in describing the word.

Note: it is very important that support your arguments. For instance, you can use quotes from your sources to support a claim. You may also use quotes from interviews to support personal definition.

Definition Essay Conclusion

This is the fifth section of your essay. You conclude by restating the main points of your essay. Two things should not miss in this section; standard definition of your word, and personal definition of the word (thesis statement).

Also, in this section highlight only the issues you have discussed in the essay. Avoid introducing new ideas in this section. The first sentence of your paragraphs (topic sentence) will help you identify your main arguments.

How To Polish Your Definition Essay

After you are done writing your essay, it is time to polish it. Read and reread the essay. Make sure the essay has a good flow. Revise any awkward phrases. Check for plagiarism, grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors.

You may also consider showing a friend your essay for feedback. Ask them about the clarity of the definition. This will help in identifying areas that need change. After getting the feedback, revise your essay.

Then, ensure your paper meets the requirements of your instructor. This includes checking word count, ensuring the use of proper format- APA Style and MLA  Style including a cover page and reference pages as required.

Dos and Don’ts in writing a definition essays


  • Narrow down a word that has a wider meaning. For instance, instead of writing about fear, consider a specific type of fear such as panic fear. This will make it easier to write your essay.
  • Use transitions for your essay to flow well.
  • Be creative and come up with unique definitions
  • Always proofread your essay before submission.


  • Don’t select well-known words.
  • Don’t over or under detail your essay. Always consider the word limit.
  • Don’t forget to include evidence.
  • Don’t copy word by word the existing definition of your word.

Definition Essay Writing Help

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