How To Write An Argumentative Definition Essay


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

What is Heat?

What is heat really? Is it an invisible fluid your bare feet soak up from a hot sidewalk? Can one ever remove all the heat from an object? Is there a maximum to the temperature scale? The theory of heat as a fluid seemed to explain why colder ob...

Zombie

The word “zombie” is not as clear cut as one might think. It can infer a fictional, undead creature, a state of stupor, or an act of mindless devotion. The term has been a part of popular culture the world over for over a century. Not only is a zombie ...

Momentum

A conserved quantity of motion Your first encounter with the conservation of momentum may have come as a small child unjustly confined to a shopping cart. You spot something interesting to play with, like the display case of imported wine down ...

Choosing Your Definition

It is important to pick out a term or definition that is not a concrete object. For instance, most people can agree on the definition of cat or plane. One is a four-legged fur ball and the other is something that flies in the sky and gets people from point a to point b. This essay is easier to write if you select a less concrete or abstract topic that can be easily explained through your knowledge or experience. Terms like nihilism or honesty are great for essays like these.

Other Definition Essay Topics

  • Feminism
  • Talent
  • Freedom
  • Virtue
  • Leadership
  • Common Sense
  • Communism
  • Motherhood
  • Maturity
  • Intelligence

The Definition Essay’s Structure

  • Introduction ‒ This should include a generic definition of your term or even an attention grabbing fact. Then you can give a contradiction to your term to contrast it. End your introduction by giving your own definition of the term that you are going to expound upon throughout the rest of your essay.
  • Body ‒ In your essay’s body, you need to provide a few different points that construct your interpretation of the definition. You can provide background information but it isn’t necessary. Each point should have its own paragraph
    • Point 1: This will include the first component of your definition. You will need to give your analysis for how the example substantiates your definition.
    • Point 2: This is the second aspect of your term. Once again, give an example and provide analysis.
    • Point 3 etc. if necessary

  • Conclusion ‒ Your conclusion should give an overview of your above points. You can also explain how the definition has impacted your life. The attention grabber at the beginning of your essay can be brought back in to tie everything neatly together.

Definition Essay Examples

Most people might think that a feminist is just a man hater with short spiky hair that goes through the streets protesting every insignificant instance of possible sexism or misconduct. However, a more accepted version of feminism is simply any person, man or woman, who believes that women have the right to be equal with men. If this were better understood amongst the general population, more women would undoubtedly embrace this controversial term. To be a feminist means to not be a second class citizen and to be an intellectual equal on par with the rest of humankind…

The word intelligence brings visions of Albert Einstein or other smart men or women of science. However, I would more readily argue that intelligence should be measured in different areas and ways. It is not only important to be the smartest kid in class. It’s also important to have common sense as well as street smarts and social skills together with book intelligence. All of these key areas affect everyone’s life. Therefore, I would argue that schools and universities should not only be developing their students’ minds intellectually, but they should be building it within all of these other important spheres….
  • Spelling,Grammar,Punctuation
  • Plagiarism
  • Proper formatting

 

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