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A Definition Essay

Examples: A definition essay may try and
define . . .
the meaning of an abstract concept, like
the true meaning and importance of
how the meaning of family goes deeper
than just your blood relatives.

A Definition Essay
A definition essay attempts to define
a specific term.
tries to pin down the meaning of a
specific word, or define an abstract
goes deeper than a simple dictionary

it could imply the definition of the term. . giving no information other than the explanation of the term. telling a story that requires the reader to infer the meaning.A Definition Essay attempts to explain why the term is defined as such. could define the term directly.

vigorous. extent. The act of defining a word. 1. The act of making clear and distinct. 3. •Your task is to make the definition fresh by using your own understanding and experience to illuminate the word’s meaning. or limits. phrase. write about churches but not Westminster Abbey. . Consider the following guidelines as you write your definition essay: •Make your essay personal. A determining of outline. 2.def-i-ni-tion (def' e-nish' en) n. memorable. For example. •Choose a generic topic rather than a specific topic. stimulating. or term. amusing.

What is the purpose for the intended definition? . Who is the intended audience for the writing? Is this a general audience for which terms must be broken down in laymen's terms or is it a specific/specialized audience that will know technical terms and will not require further definition? 3.PLANNING GUIDE 1.DEFINITION ESSAY -. What is the term to be defined? 2.

. Present clear and basic information. 1. 3. examples. Use facts.Three Steps to Effective Definition Tell readers what term is being defined. or anecdotes that readers will understand. 2.

but don't just copy the definition.  Read the dictionary.  You need to understand the term before you can define it for others.Choosing a Definition  Choosing a definition is a key step in writing a definition essay.  Be able to explain the term briefly in your own words. .

" – To limit it. For example. you would write about either "romantic love." "platonic love." "first love.Limiting Your Term It's important to limit your term before you start defining it." . – you could write forever on the term "love.

Outline – The Introduction DEFINITION THEME – OUTLINE FORMAT I. You may want to open with a contradictory image to illustrate what that term is not. Introduction: Attention getter a. Thesis Statement . You may want to include the traditional or dictionary definition here to provide a basis for your personal definition. c. b.

Outline – The Introduction Focus on the THESIS STATEMENT Your thesis statement should include the following information: • The term to be defined • Sentence definition of the term • Reason(s) for giving a more detailed definition • The kinds of additional information that will be used to extend the definition .

Outline – The Body The body of an extended definition may use one or more of the patterns of organization to assist in a fuller explanation of the term. Etymology: Where do words come from? How and when were they invented? Why are there so many different languages? Why do many languages share the same or similar words for the same things? b. . Process: describes the steps necessary to accomplish a described task. Anecdotal Illustration: Narrate illustrations that can clarify a group. or object. theory. d. You must include in the body of your essay a minimum of things to focus on from the list below: 2 a. Counterpoints or Negation: What is it NOT? What can't it do? What are its limitations? c.

often seasoned and aged. d. Ex.Outline – The Body You must include in the body of your essay a minimum of to focus on from the list below: 2 things a. . Analysis: Divide the subject into parts and define each part separately. Cheese is a solid food prepared from the pressed curd of milk. Comparison/Contrast: What similarities and/or differences can you identify when compared to something else. Description: A formal one line definition of the word is appropriate for this technique. b. Concrete Details: What are the physical characteristics? What is remarkable and unique? c.

Effects: Discuss the uses and consequences (both positive and negative) of the subject. Narrative: a story that helps to illustrate the depth of meaning in the term b. Classification: According to dictionary definitions. Origins & Cause: Where did the subject come from? What is the background information? What is the history of the subject? . c. what classes does the subject belong to? d.Outline – The Body You must include in the body of your essay a minimum of to focus on from the list below: 2 things a.

FUTURE: You should end with a comment about the future of the Idea/Concept/Term A. End with an explanation of how your definition has affected you. Closing attention getter – WRAP IT UP!! • Sometimes a reference back to the opening attentiongetter is a good way of unifying the entire essay B. or a summarizing statement regarding the paper itself.Outline – The Conclusion III. C. What does the future hold for the subject? Speculate on its effectiveness and duration into the future. D. REFLECTION: Include a comment about the term. CONCLUSION A. . may often be included.

you should aim for a clearly structured essay and some meaty arguments.Purpose of the Paper . To see if you can write at length about some topic. but discussing a specific topic or cluster of interrelated topics in an integrated way. That still leaves options. or You may go 'horizontally' and be concerned to make connections. Whichever way you go. . You may go 'vertically' and dig more deeply into one particular issue.or a bit of both.following through some clear line(s) of argument in some depth. in a focused and sustained way. .not rambling disconnectedly on "everything I know about X". Sustained -. . and show how different parts of a “philosophical” landscape fit together -. Focused -.

term.Purpose of the Paper A definition essay defines a word. computers. A. Most people will agree on what trees. 2. Most physical objects have a definition about which most people agree. windows. 1. or concept in depth by providing a personal commentary on what the specific subject means. . and pencils are in general. These objects all have specific physical properties that most people can agree on through the use of their physical senses.

abstract terms. have different meanings for different individuals since such terms play on people’s feelings more than their physical senses. pain.Focus of the Paper However. such as love. C. extended definition of such terms by linking or comparing the term to a previous definition and by illustrating how that term should be applied. The definition essay provides a personal. or patriotism. .

.Selecting a TERM for the Paper Select a subject carefully. if you feel that the word marriage should be defined in a limited manner. Since such essays are personal in nature. PICK A TERM THAT YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT. that term would make a good subject for a definition essay. Perhaps as a student. select your subject based on your own need to clarify the term. For example. you want to define what the term education means from your point of view.

The subject of the essay must be familiar enough to you that you can readily supply specific examples. don’t attempt to define it in an extended essay. For example.Selecting a TERM for the Paper Select a term or subject that you know well enough so that you can provide specific examples to illustrate your definition. if you aren’t familiar with the term platonic love. .

.Selecting a TERM for the Paper Don’t select a subject either too broad or too narrow to fit the parameters of your essay. On the other hand. For example. the term love may be too broad or general since pinning it down to a single definition is very difficult. the word hat may be too narrow for you to define in an extended essay.

Make a list of subtle and borderline comparisons: (Laughter may seem similar to humor.) 7.) b. After your research. 6.. value. Write out a series of negative definitions: (Laughter is not.. 8.. Classify your word: Part of Speech: noun.Preparing for the Paper Complete the following steps in the process of collecting details for your definition essay: 1. enlightenment. Differentiate: a. Identify at least two extended examples which illustrate the word." 3. b. Connotations: 5. adjective.. persistence. In a thesaurus.. literary term. etc. or meaning to you personally.. a. punishment etc. determine a particular thesis or main idea about your word.. but .. religion... Example: Beauty. importance. adverb General Type: character trait. political term. Select a word that you plan to investigate. The word should have some interest. 2.. verb. discover words that have similar meanings.. Begin by writing down a few simple statements about your word: "Laughter is . Now record the word's dictionary definition: 4. .

woman has managed to survive right along with her male counterpart. A woman. though able to compete with the best. Despite being blamed for the downfall of man. she is always conscious of bringing friends (and enemies) to a higher level. well-educated. women have become harder and harder to classify by their roles or their careers. A woman may be classified in many ways: as a mother. and a dynamic force for the future. Modern culture requires women to be savvy. but the connotations are almost limitless. in recent years. to her place in modern culture. She is a traditional part of the past. a sister or friend. but. Instead. she does not engage in "testosterone tests" shouldering her opponents out of the way! No. She has fought to overcome old stereotypes of hysteria and emotional outbursts. as a laborer or a professional. a daughter. She must be tough and resilient as well as living up to her reputation for tenderness and softness. woman has never been without her critics. From her controversial beginnings in the Garden of Eden. however. . no matter how accomplished and well-rounded is not a man.Brief Example – Woman – 259 words What is a woman? A woman is a female by denotation. a woman may be described as nurturing. but she is also competitive and a risktaker. a worthy participant in the present. She does not crave the remote control. nurturing and self-supporting. A woman is a marvelous creation designed for multiple applications. No free rides for this modern female. The future looks good for woman.


This Thing Called “Love” A wise man once said that love is a wonderful thing. Although this statement leaves sparse room for argument. . It is my duty as a devout romantic to embark upon the seemingly difficult task of defining love by looking at the history. and examining the uses of love and the results of that usage. it does little to define what love is beyond the vague realm of wonderful.Sample Definition Essay . explaining what love is not.

History clearly illustrates this. dizzyness. weak knees. knotted stomaches. sweaty palms. love is a derivative of the Latin word "causemajoraproblemus" which means "You're miserable when you got it and miserable when you don't. sneezing. Belligerent insanity also resulted. the relationship was usually characteristic of throat lumps.(Origin and Causes) The origin of the word is probably the most logical place to start. As with many words in the English language. Regardless of the outcome. Can we ever forget the face that launched a thousand ships? Federally expressing Van Gogh's ear? The construction of Le Tour Eiffel? All of these were results of love and love lost. temporary loss of language. and occasional nausea. ." The word was created to explain the biological phenomenon that existed when certain individuals came into contact with each other and either remained together or went about their lives separately.

or a latest trend. summer movies. (Negation) Star-crossed lovers have stated that love is not hand nor foot nor any part belonging to a man. Love is a capitalistic sell-all for novels. wet sand between bare toes. love is a four-letter word. Let it be stated here that love also is not a gourmet dish. and banished because of love. burned. evening thunder storms on hot July nights. Love is not a strategic defense mechanism nor the best kept secret at the Pentagon. Instead. Love is not to be confused with adhesive tape. Love also can be confused with feelings of indigestion and gas. In its simplest terms. and virtually any wave of reaction. love is a great counterpart to late. a domesticated animal. Love goes well with cold pizza on picnic blankets. when expressed it can evoke laughter. Top-40 pop songs. . Love is not another seasoning to bottle and stick on the dust-lined shelves of the spice rack. pleasure. Matrimonial ceremonies also claim that love is not jealous or boastful. Houses have been built. pain. anger. Love is cold. Much like other words of similar letter make up. and greeting cards.

Write an essay defining a food--but include a thesis statement that paints a very favorable portrait of a muchmaligned food (for example.  3. Make sure to include the duties of this person. . . . by giving examples of the kinds of things you consider burdens.Starter Topics  1. for example. You might want to develop your definition essay with comparison and contrast. Spam or Brussels sprouts) or a very negative picture of a popular food (for example. chocolate or ice cream). . the role of a stepmother.  OR you could pick one of these . Write an essay in which you define a family role.  2. Write an essay in which you define burden at a personal level. exploring the differences between a burden and a responsibility.

by William James . by John Berger The Essence of Humanism. by Ralph Waldo Emerson Gore Vidal's Definition of Prettiness A Definition of Pantomime. by Julian Barnes The Meaning of Home. by Nikos Kazantzakis A Definition of a Jerk.TOPICS List ( Peace of mind Kindness Sexism Gumption Racism Sportsmanship Honor Modesty Self-assurance Humility Dedication Sensitivity Trust Respect Ambition Clowns Right to privacy Generosity Laziness Charisma Common sense Team player Maturity Integrity Healthy appetite Frustration Optimism Sense of humor Liberal Conservative A good (or bad) teacher or professor Physical fitness Feminism A happy marriage True friendship Courage Citizenship Success A good (or bad) coach Intelligence Personality A good (or bad) roommate Political correctness Peer pressure Leadership Persistence Responsibility Human rights Sophistication Self-respect Heroism Thrift Sloth Vanity Pride Lust Pride Beauty Greed Virtue Progress A good (or bad) boss A good (or bad) parent Model Paragraphs and Essays A Definition of Happiness. Harris Gifts. by Sydney J.