How To Write Definition Essay: The Real Guide


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  1. Definition Essay Meaning
  2. Pre-writing Stage
  3. How To Write A Definition Essay
  4. Conduct Research
  5. Definition Essay Structure
  6. Post-Writing Stage
  7. Definition Essay Submission

Definition Essay Meaning

According to Google, a definition essay is a short piece of writing on a particular subject. Other documented sources suggest that a definition essay is a writing that explains what a term means.

From my own understanding, a definition essay is a piece of writing explaining an in depth meaning of a certain idea.

Fundamentally, being able to define one word and write a whole page story about it is definitely not a cup of tea. It takes effort, commitment, and creativity. Besides, a lot of research, some thinking and definitely planning.

Writing a definition essay is probably not one of your favorite essays to write. Writing essays, no matter what type, has proven not to be easy. Usually, it is either you are trying to convince people of your opinions, you are narrating a story or you are exploring a new world and now, defining a term.

However, writing a definition essay has been made easier by following a few simple steps explained in this article.

Pre-writing Stage

There are various thing to consider before writing a definition essay. To begin with, before sitting down and getting to work on paper, you need to prepare yourself prior. In this stage you will need to;

  • Write Down a Number Of Words You Believe You Can Explain

You need to identify the words that you are knowledgeable about and write them down for you to choose from later on.

  • Choose Your Term/Topic

Now that you have a list of the terms you believe you are capable of bringing out their definitions properly, it’s time you decide.

What idea are you presenting. This is the center of your essay. The whole content will be rotating around this term as you reveal the deep meaning it conceals.

  • Do a Thorough Research

No matter how well you understand the term, you need to do a thorough research to get a deeper understanding of the definition of the term.

How To Write Definition Essay

It is obvious in order to write a definition essay, you should first select your term to be defined, without term they will be no a definition essay.

However, choosing a term is confusing. There are so many words out there and picking one out of the millions could be overwhelming. It requires you to be smart.

Consider the following while choosing your word;

  • You should select a word that you are well familiar with. A term that you have used couple times before and that has impacted in your life.

You should be able to explain the word profoundly, using examples and illustrations.

  • Select a word that is not too common. Words that do not have obvious meanings will hold your readers attention and interest in reading the essay.

Choose a word that has a long history and interesting origins.

  • Go for a word with diverse meaning and that have broad definitions. For example, instead of going for ‘’house’’ consider going for ‘’home’’.

Compared to ‘’house’’, ‘’home’’ has a deeper meaning to it and can therefore have a great discussion.

  • Choose an interesting term. Your reader must not be bored reading your essay. You want them to read to the end and in that case you must choose a word that is going to hold their attention to the end.

Conduct Research

This can be tricky at times. You don’t want to get just the common definition of a certain word. To be able to define a word fully, you will need to;

  1. Use the oxford dictionary or any other literature dictionary to get the formal meaning of the word.
  2. Read online blogs associated with the word to get an overview of what others think about it.
  3. Ask your friends and relative to define that specific term. Ask them what it means to them and in what instances do they use it.
  4. Go to the library and read books, get historical information and origin of the word. Find out what it meant in the past years and how it is being used in the recent century.
  5. Be thorough and try to get as much information about the word as you can. Research deeply and keep your focus.

Definition Essay Structure

Selecting your topic and doing your research is not enough if you can’t arrange your work. This calls for you to understand the definition essay structure. Below, we break it down for you;

  • The definition essay introduction
  • Definition essay body paragraphs [at least 3 paragraphs]
  • Definition essay Conclusion

The introductory paragraph contains the general statement whereby you introduce your term. Clearly indicate the specific topic of the essay.

The introduction must contain the official meaning of the word which your reader can find In the English web dictionary. However, if a few meaning pops up, choose the best.

You can also outline the contents of the essay here. Point out what is to be expected of your essay by mentioning the subtopics.

Start by an interesting or funny fact about the word to attract the readers attention. To do this, you can use a proverb, a famous quotation or a shocking truth in regard to the topic. Nevertheless, all depends on what you want to achieve. Usually, this part should be brief and informative.

But, It includes the thesis statement, which usually comes at the end of the introduction. In this section, use one statement to define the word. Besides, use your research findings combined with the dictionary meaning of the term to come up with your own definition.

Essay Body Paragraphs

Depending on the complexity of the chosen subject and the demand of your readers, you may be required to create 3 or more paragraphs for your essay.

This is where you provide all the information and facts on the word you have chosen. By giving the in-depth description of the word.

Also, you should point out the instances the term has been used. How and why it was used and what impact did it bring. In addition, explain its use and how it does something.

More so, provide the historical information about the term as well as it’s origin.

These demands an explanation how it came about existing and the evolution of how it’s been used through the years,

For example the word ‘’Justice’’. It’s origin is Latin-Justus, which later evolved to justita-Latin to Old French to justice-Old English which meant ‘’ administration of the law’’ to Just-English and now, Justice.

To be safe, use examples that will illustrate and support your definition.

For Instance, if you choose a term that has different meanings, explain each of the meaning in their own different paragraphs. Remember, with every new idea brings a new paragraph. Particularly, ensure you have used at least 3 examples to distinctly explain each definition.

It is important to point out common mistakes people make while defining the word. Specifically, what they misunderstand and bring out the clarification. Hence, your readers will understand the clear meaning of the term.

Finally, compare and contrast your definition of the term with another like meaning. Remember in definition essays, you are trying to figure out what examples will enable your readers to get the meaning of the term in the right way.

Writing The Conclusion

The conclusion in definition essays is usually short but still worth mentioning.

You should briefly restate contents of your writing, highlighting the important details.

Sum up your essay by mentioning the term and reminding your readers about it. Briefly refer to your main points.

Make a review of the details given in the body and conclude your essay with a clause that will connect your readers to the discussed word.

Definition Essay Post-Writing Stage

  • Revise Your Work

Read your essay 1-2 times noting the things you would like to add, remove or change.

  • Edit

Re-read your essay, possibly removing all the flaws. Check out the spelling mistakes and correct them. Get rid of all the unnecessary pieces.

  • Get A Second Eye To Check The Essay

Ask your friend to read the essay and help you with the editing. Let them comment on your work and get their opinion.

  • Proofread

Read again. Find and correct all the mistakes in your essay before presenting it to your readers.

Note that post writing is the final but the most important step in your definition essay writing. Going through your essay to ensure it is error free fortifies a presentation of pure work.

What To Check Before Submitting Definition Essay

  • Method you use in choosing the term?
  • How much can you explain the term?
  • What level do you understand the term well?
  • How broad/diverse is the term?
  • How many meanings does the word have?
  • What does your thesis statement contain?
  • How much are you required to write?
  • What will be the presentation of your introduction and definition of the word?
  • How are you going to arrange the paragraphs?
  • In what way will you place the conclusion?

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.
  • 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 Example

Kindly go through these college definition essay examples provided here. Be keen on the structure since any of them can be used as a definition essay template in future. However, if you wish to use the same template for you definition essay, well and good.

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