What is a Definition Essay?
A definition essay is writing that explains what a term means. Some terms have definite, concrete meanings, such as glass, book, or tree. Terms such as honesty, honor, or love are abstract and depend more on a person's point of view.
Three Steps to Effective Definition
- Tell readers what term is being defined.
- Present clear and basic information.
- Use facts, examples, or anecdotes that readers will understand.
Choosing a Definition
Choosing a definition is a key step in writing a definition essay. You need to understand the term before you can define it for others. Read the dictionary, but don't just copy the definition. Explain the term briefly in your own words. Also, it's important to limit your term before you start defining it. For example, you could write forever on the term "love." To limit it, you would write about either "romantic love," "platonic love," or "first love."
Thesis Statement of a Definition Essay
The thesis statement usually identifies the term being defined and provides a brief, basic definition.
(term) (basic definition)
Ex: Assertiveness is standing up for your rights.
How To Write an Effective Definition
- Create a definition. There are several ways to define a term. Here are a few options.
- Define by function. Explain what something does or how something works.
- Define by structure. Tell how something is organized or put together.
- Define by analysis. Compare the term to other members of its class and then illustrate the differences. These differences are special characteristics that make the term stand out. For example, compare a Siberian husky to other dogs, such as lap dogs, mutts, or sporting dogs.
(term) (precise definition)
Ex: A Siberian husky is a dog reputed for its ability to tolerate cold, its distinctive features, and its keen strength and stamina.
- Define by what the term does not mean. This distinction can sometimes clarify a definition and help a reader to better understand it.
- Use understandable facts, examples, or anecdotes. Select facts, examples, or anecdotes to fully explain your definition. Ask yourself, "Which examples will best help readers understand the term? What examples would most appeal to my readers? Will a brief story reveal the term's meaning?" Do not use any examples that will not support the definition.
Remember: A definition essay is writing that explains what a term means. When writing a definition essay, remember to tell readers what term is being defined, to present a clear and basic definition, and to use facts, examples, or anecdotes that readers will understand
Sample EssayDefinition Essay - What is Love?
For some people love is a complete devotion and endless adoration, for others is a temporary feeling that will disappear in time. For some people it is a fairy-tale and for others it is a dream come true. Some people say love is once-in-a lifetime thing and others believe that after one love comes another. The more you try to find a universal definition of love – the more you get confused with all these words you get from different people around you. The more you think you get closer to the true meaning of this feeling- the more you realize that the definition of love is probably your own, unique and sincere truth about love. Throughout the history a lot of writers suggested their understanding of love to their readers. And it is important to say that books about love do influence a lot people’s mind, it especially concerns young people. These books show the way authors look upon marriage and love, betrayal and devotion. For instance, let us compare the visions of marriage we observe in three short stories: Raymond Carver's "What we talk about when we talk about love", Kate Chopin's story "The Storm" and Irwin Shaw's "The Girls in their Summer Dresses".
"You always look at other women," Frances said. "At every damn woman in the city of New York." They start discussing this problem in a bar and Frances seems very hurt. "I feel rotten inside, in my stomach, when we pass a woman and you look at her and I see that look in your eye and that's the way you looked at me the first time…”. Michael assures Frances that he has not touched another woman since their wedding. But some words he says completely shock: “ I can't help but look at them. I can't help but want them. I love you, but I also want them...". After these words Frances makes Michael admit that one day he is going to make a move. And when he does that the only favor she asks him for is at least to stop talking how pretty this or that woman is. And they just go on being together and decide to call their friends to spend the weekend. That completely amazes the reader. It is really hard to say which relationship offers the most realistic view of marriage, but Kate Chopin's story, "The Storm" in the sense that a treason like that did not mean anything and the woman continues her married life with a new discovery of her sexuality. But honestly, this has nothing to do with love and is just the most realistic picture of a marriage. The violent type of marriage depicted in Raymond Carver's "What we talk about when we talk about love" is really frightening and fortunately not very frequent. What is described in this novel is not love at all and it is nothing but pathology. And love described in Irwin Shaw's "The Girls in their Summer Dresses" shows us that kind of “love” when you want other people and know that one day you are going to make a move towards it. It is very hard to make a division of this or that marriage being “good” or “bad”. Analyzing the marriages depicted in these works it is interesting to point out that the “ good” marriage would be the one in "The Storm", not with unrealized expectations like in “What we talk about when we talk about love”, not with pathological attraction to other women like in “Girls in their summer dresses”. It is individual for every person, and what one person may consider being a perfect marriage other will consider being his worst nightmare. Love is what people in these stories feel comfortable with it to be. Love comes and goes moving through these stories like a shadow. What about spiritual love?
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