Definition

def-i-ni-tion (def’ e-nish’ en) n. 1. The act of defining a word, phrase, or term. 2. The act of making clear and distinct. 3. A determining of outline, extent, or limits.

Consider the following guidelines when writing a definition essay:

  • Make the essay personal, amusing, vigorous, stimulating, memorable.
  • Choose a generic topic rather than a specific topic. For example, write about churches but not Westminster Abbey.
Types of Definitions Traditionally Used in Definition Essays
Any combination of these traditional types of definitions can help clarify meaning for the reader of a definition essay:
  • Analysis: Divide the subject into parts and define each part separately.
  • Classification: According to dictionary definitions, what classes does the subject belong to?
  • Comparison: The unfamiliar may be defined by showing its likeness to the familiar or its difference from it.
  • Details: What are the physical characteristics, traditional thoughts, and other distinguishing attributes that describe the subject of the paper?
  • Examples and Incidents: Narrate illustrations that can clarify a group, theory, or object.
  • Negation: Mention what it is not in order to clear the ground for what it is.
  • Origins and Causes: Where did the subject come from? What is the background information? What is the history of the subject?
Sample Definition Essay
What is This Thing Called Love?

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

(Origin and Causes)

The origin of the word is probably the most logical place to start. As with many words in the English language, love is a derivative of the Latin word “causemajoraproblemus” which means “You’re miserable when you got it and miserable when you don’t.” 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. Regardless of the outcome, the relationship was usually characteristic of throat lumps, knotted stomaches, weak knees, temporary loss of language, sweaty palms, dizzyness, sneezing, and occasional nausea. Belligerent insanity also resulted. History clearly illustrates this. 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.

(Negation)

Star-crossed lovers have stated that love is not hand nor foot nor any part belonging to a man. Matrimonial ceremonies also claim that love is not jealous or boastful. Let it be stated here that love also is not a gourmet dish, a domesticated animal, or a latest trend. Love is not a strategic defense mechanism nor the best kept secret at the Pentagon. Love is not another seasoning to bottle and stick on the dust-lined shelves of the spice rack. Love is not to be confused with adhesive tape.

Instead, love is a great counterpart to late, evening thunder storms on hot July nights. Love goes well with cold pizza on picnic blankets. Love is cold, wet sand between bare toes. Love is a capitalistic sell-all for novels, Top-40 pop songs, summer movies, and greeting cards.

In its simplest terms, love is a four-letter word. Much like other words of similar letter make up, when expressed it can evoke laughter, pleasure, pain, anger, and virtually any wave of reaction. Love also can be confused with feelings of indigestion and gas. Houses have been built, burned, and banished because of love.

Adapted from: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/definition.html