How to Write a Definition Essay

The writer of a definition essay is tasked with explain what a particular term means and how it is used. While this might seem simple and straightforward for concrete terms like school, children or baseball; this type of essay can be much more difficult when attempting to define ideas or ideals such as honor, pain or faith. In any case, it is the writer’s job to ensure that the term is defined clearly for the reader. The writer does this by clearly setting the boundaries for the definition and then providing a series of examples and evidence to prove that the definition is correct.

Steps to Write a Definition Essay

The first step in a definition essay is to ensure that the writer understands the term very well. Part of understanding a term is limiting the scope of the definition. This will not only make defining the term or idea easier, but will also help to focus the essay and make it easier for the writer to be clear and concise.

Then the writer must present information that will clearly show what the writer intends as a definition. It is important to use facts, give plenty of examples and build an effective argument for the specific definition. Sometimes this might require the use of stories or set examples, especially if the term being defined is more of an idea than a concrete object.

The most critical step, however, is in creating a strong definition. One way of doing this is to explain how something works. Defining the organization of an idea or concept is another way of developing a strong definition. Finally, a very effective method of establishing a definition is to contrast it to similar ideas. Focus on what makes the specific definition strongly different and it will be easier for the writer to clearly define the term or idea.

It is important to do three things when writing a definition essay:

  1. Strongly defining the idea or term,
  2. providing clear evidence and
  3. backing up the definition with facts and examples are all key components to writing an effective definition essay.

Outline Template


  • Narrow the definition
  • Thesis will identify the term and give basic information


  • Provide basic information about definition
  • Give clear examples to support proposed definition
  • Possibly provide contrasting ideas about the definition


  • Restate the definition
  • Restate key points of supporting the definition
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