A definition explains the meaning of a term or a concept. In a dictionary, you’ll find a definition in a single sentence. A definition paper, however, encompasses several paragraphs. Such an essay, amongst other things, can include personal experience and examples.
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To write a successful definition paper, you need to provide a unique view of your chosen subject. In this article by Custom-Writing.org, we have compiled a list of the best definition essay ideas for high school and college students. We will also:
- explain how to choose a topic;
- give some writing tips;
- provide a definition essay sample.
🔝 Top 10 Definition Essay Topics
- Can love be defined?
- Is empathy a weakness?
- Is optimism a strength?
- How do you define success?
- What is considered racism?
- What does it mean to be happy?
- What is independence for you?
- When does one become an adult?
- What does it take to be an ambitious person?
- How to know if someone is a perfectionist?
⭐ Definition Essay Topics: How to Choose
When it comes to papers explaining a concept, essay topics are notoriously hard to choose. How do you find a good idea to write about? Well, here are a few steps that you might want to consider while making the decision:
- Choose a word with a complex meaning. For instance, notions such as “love” or “home” are hard to define because everyone has their own understanding of them.
- Make sure the meaning of the word is arguable. Unlike “love” and “home,” words such as “coffee” or “hose” have a precise meaning you can’t really argue about.
- Choose the word you are familiar with. You can educate yourself on the meaning of certain words before writing an essay, but it’s still different from incorporating it into your daily life.
So, let’s get started with our prompts and topics for a definition essay!
💭 Top 7 Definition Essay Prompts
Definition of Love Essay Prompt
Practically all people have felt love at some point in their life. However, what is love, exactly? How do you define it? Well, love is a term that encompasses various meanings and has different implications:
- You can write about different characteristics of love. For instance, it can be all-consuming and passionate or tender and gentle.
- There are various types of love, such as romantic and platonic, and you can explore them in your essay.
- You may also dive into how love shouldn’t necessarily be related to another human being. One can also love certain activities or objects.
- Another widely discussed topic is the love language. You can write about how different people perceive and express their love.
Family Definition Essay Prompt
Family is another term that has a vast spectrum of meanings. Here are some ideas for your essay:
- Talk about the difference between an immediate and a chosen family. For instance, you may think of family while referring to your parents or siblings. For others, a family can also be a group of people who love and care for one another. It doesn’t matter if they are related by blood or not.
- You can talk about the traditional understanding of a family vs. the modern one.
Definition of a Hero Essay Prompt
People’s ideas of heroes and heroic qualities change throughout time. Consider discussing the following in your essay:
- Look into the mythological roots of a hero and how Ancient Greeks described someone with heroic traits.
- Talk about the modern understanding of a hero.
- Is having superpowers a pre-requirement to being a hero, or can anyone spiritually strong and brave be called a hero?
Racism Definition Essay Prompt
Racism is one of the most permanent issues in society. It happens when people divide themselves into exclusive, separate groups according to their race and skin color. In your paper, you may discuss:
- Talk about how the word “racism” when it comes to law and the legal system.
- You can talk about the etymology of the word racism and how it came to be.
- Discuss how racism is understood in philosophy, literature, and psychology.
- Mention the differences between the implications the term “racism” has when it comes to social life and the law.
Home Definition Essay Prompt
If you look up the word “home” in a dictionary, you’ll see definitions like “a place where a person lives” or “a place where one originally comes from.” However, each person has a different understanding of what it actually means. Here are a few things that you can discuss in your essay:
- You can write about your interpretation of the famous saying, “There’s no place like home.”
- Talk about the differences between “home” and “house.”
- Explore how the word “home” is understood in philosophy, literature, and psychology.
Definition Essay: American Dream Prompt
American Dream is a concept that’s almost synonymous with the word America itself. This term and its meaning have been discussed since its first appearance in Epic of America in 1931. You can explore the following topics in your paper:
- Discuss how the notion of the American Dream has changed and evolved throughout time.
- Write about the concept of “4 freedoms for all” and how it has affected people’s perception of the American Dream.
- You may also want to mention globalization and how it has affected people’s interpretation of the American Dream.
Kindness Definition Essay Prompt
The concept of what it means to be kind is debated in religion, philosophy, and psychology. Writing about this topic will allow you to contemplate and look at it from different perspectives. Here are some exciting ideas to consider:
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- Discuss the phenomenon of kindness and how it’s reflected in philosophy, religion, and literature.
- Talk about the concept of kindness and its origin. You can see how people’s understanding of being kind has evolved through time.
- Interpret the phrase “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” You can discuss how this saying relates to people’s perception of kindness.
- Talk about altruism and to what extent this principle reflects the meaning people attach to the word “kindness.”
👍 70 Best Definition Essay Topics: Easy & Exciting
- What does “commitment” mean?
- The ancient and modern concept of a healthy person.
- Why does “break a leg” mean “good luck”?
- How does the definition of mimesis change through time?
- Define postmodern theatre and its elements.
- What is the difference between Platonic and Aristotelian understandings of mimesis?
- Define individualism from a psychological and sociological perspective.
- How would you define grief?
- What is the poetry of mourning?
- The concept of independence.
- What does it mean “to narrate” in literature?
- Egoism in psychology.
- The meaning behind the phrase “peace of mind.”
- How would you define modernism in theatre?
- Define Nietzsche’s ideas of nihilism.
- Define the abolitionist movement in Western Europe and the Americas.
- What is Ziggurat, and how is it important to the ancient Mesopotamian culture?
- The meaning of depression from a medical perspective.
- What does bulking mean in sports?
- People’s perception of sports as a hobby and as a career.
- What does it mean to “do business”?
- What is a kinetic sculpture?
- Papier-mâché and its place in sculpting.
- What is the origin and meaning of the word arena?
- Religion as a belief and an institutionalized notion.
- How would you define artistic works through philosophy?
- What is “common sense?”
- Ego and egoism: how are the two connected?
- How would you define the word “rosary”?
- Altruism and kindness: the definitions.
- People’s understanding of success in the 21st century.
- What is the Indian reservation, and what historical importance does it have?
- Trauma in psychology.
- What is the equality of rights?
- The image of a contemporary vs. ancient hero.
- What is an argument in writing?
- What does it means to lose one’s identity?
- The concept of time in history.
- The perspective on time: linear and circular.
- What does it mean to be confident?
- People’s perception of gender and the impact it has on society.
- Define gothic literature and talk about its key features.
- What does the word “taboo” means?
- Define grotesque and its importance in art.
- What is maturity in psychology?
- A butterfly effect in chaos theory.
- What does it mean to “fancy someone”?
- The understanding of science in ancient Greece and philosophy.
- People’s interpretation of art and beauty in the Middle Ages.
- What can be called poetry?
- What does it mean to “make a long story short”?
- How people’s perception of war has been changing throughout history.
🏫 Definition Essay Topics for High School
- How would you define progress?
- Define imperialism.
- What is polynomial in mathematics?
- The meaning of the hippie movement in the 60s and 70s.
- How would you interpret the saying “a friend in need is a friend in deed?”
- What is the cultural meaning of the tea ceremony in Japan?
- Define teamwork in business.
- What does it mean to be a good student?
- What is mass culture as opposed to popular culture?
- The meaning of the phrase “natural beauty.”
- What does it mean to be a good role model?
- What is self-confidence?
- Intellectual and intelligent: is there any difference?
- What is alliteration in poetry?
- What does it mean to be a reliable person?
- What is classical music?
- Does social media increase people’s anxiety levels?
- Why do smartphones decrease our attention span?
- What can be considered an artwork?
- Globalization in contemporary art.
- The meaning and the usage of the term lithography.
- Activism as an art form.
- Explain the term decalcomania.
- What does the expression “bite the bullet” mean?
- What is biochemistry, and how is it used in nursing?
- Astrophysics vs. astrochemistry: definition.
- What is sarcasm?
- What does it mean to have a bad sense of humor?
- What does it mean “to oppress?”
- Define careerism.
- The concept of collectivism in communism.
- The meaning of consumerism in the modern world.
- What does it mean to be cynical?
- Define fascism during the Second World War.
- What are the fundamental principles of fatalism?
- The philosophy of finalism.
- The critical points of liberal discourse.
- What does it mean “to exploit”?
- What can be called “realistic“?
- What does it mean to be creative?
Feel free to explore our list of high school essay topics for more ideas.
🎓 Definition Essay Topics for College Students
- Harlem Renaissance and Jazz Music.
- Define Jazz culture in the ’90s America.
- The meaning of calisthenics.
- Define a nuclear family.
- Define surrealism in painting.
- The relation between puritanism and capitalism.
- What does it mean to have freedom of choice?
- Capitalism vs. Communism: which one is more human-oriented?
- Does Jimi Hendrix’s performance of Star Spangled Banner in 1969 correspond with the definition of activism?
- The philosophy of absurdism in Albert Camus’s works.
- What does “a start-up” mean?
- What is a farewell?
- Beauty standards in the 20th century and medieval Europe.
- Define the omniscient narrator in a novel.
- How is French materialism different from American materialism?
- Define the 3rd wave of feminism.
- Admiration and respect: differences in defining.
- Define the concept of memory in history and science.
- What is a genetic code?
- Immunology and its impact on modern medicine.
- What are prions?
- How does drama translation differ from prose translation?
- What is an extreme long shot, and how is it used in movies?
- According to Structuralism, what are “Langue” and “Parole”?
- In your opinion, what is the main difference between Structuralism and Poststructuralism?
- Define the poetry of the Beat Generation.
- The importance of Thought and Language in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
- What is a loophole?
- Define multiculturalism and its effect on society.
- How does social media affect people’s idea of attractiveness?
- Male vs. female gaze: how it is used in cinema.
- What makes something “addictive“?
- Define the Silent Movie Era as opposed to sound films.
- The meaning of the American Dream as depicted in road movies.
- What is so unique about film noir?
- The meaning of mental health portrayed in movies and how it affects people’s perception of it.
- Hip-hop culture and b-boying: definition and historical roots.
- What is blues, and how is it different from jazz?
- Define imagism in poetry.
Want more essay ideas? Check out our list of essay ideas for college students!
🧐 Definition Argument Topics
- Science is not always precise.
- Sports should be encouraged more.
- Should uniform in school be obligatory?
- Do students benefit from assignments?
- Ways to deal with drug abuse.
- Why should childbirth be encouraged?
- Natural food is more beneficial for health than manufactured products.
- Children should be taught about sex from an early age.
- Education has no actual value in the modern world.
- Why is diet more effective than doing sports for losing weight?
- Working out is beneficial for mental health.
- The Keto diet doesn’t work for everyone.
- Weightlifting helps with weight loss.
- Natural protein is better than protein supplements.
- Does the level of emotional affect depend on gender?
- The reasons why we should ban factory farming.
- Farm animals should not be treated with antibiotics.
- Is there a way to store nuclear waste safely?
- Plastic surgery reinforces beauty standards.
- Is vaping less harmful than smoking?
- Animal testing is a necessary evil.
- Advertising can be considered an art form.
- Animal euthanasia should be illegal.
- There should be no mandatory military service.
- Is a vegan diet beneficial for your health?
- Unpaid internships should be illegal.
- Should teachers be able to express their political views freely?
- Schools should start later.
- Should the grading system be abolished?
- Art should not be censored.
- It is essential to encourage kids to do sports.
- Live-action movies are better than animated ones.
- Should children own personal mobile phones?
- Reading helps to develop creativity.
- Group training and mental help services are essential for large organizations.
- Does the use of outsourcing take away legal responsibilities?
- Technology affects the way businesses deal with their failures.
- Is it morally acceptable to advertise to minors?
When it comes to the definition argument essay, you may need to do a little more research and support your ideas with some strong arguments. First, you need to introduce the issue, state the claim and define the key term. Then you can present your arguments to prove your point and convince the reader. For more ideas, check out our list of argumentative topics.
🤯 Controversial Definition Essay Topics
- What is a polyamorous relationship?
- What can be considered a mental disorder?
- Different perceptions of age in various cultures.
- People’s changing attitude towards childbirth.
- What is taurobolium in religious cults?
- The meaning and benefits of gun control.
- Free journalism doesn’t exist anymore: is it true?
- The meaning of love in popular culture.
- How polygamy is understood in modern society.
- What is cannibalism?
- The usage of the n-word: who has the right to say it?
- The perception of underage marriages in different cultures.
- What is artificial insemination?
- What are the negative aspects of the feminist movement?
- What is considered explicit content?
- How would you define consciousness?
- What is home-schooling?
- Define prostitution in ancient Greece.
- What is a prison in the cultural context?
- What can be called “censorship“?
- Define “a man” and “a woman.”
- Define climate change and its impact on social movements.
- What is a “prescription drug“?
- Vaping vs. smoking: definition.
- What is an ethical zoo?
- Explain the meaning of the word “crime.”
- What does the word “gender” means?
- Define the word “orphan.”
- Define the LGBTQ+ rights movement.
- The meaning and benefits of conventional medicine.
- What is anorexia in a medical context?
- The most common side effects of war.
Some issues cause controversy due to people’s divided opinions and feelings about them. You may want to pay special attention to those topics and be more careful while discussing them. For more ideas, check out our list of controversial issues.
🎈 Funny Definition Essay Topics
- What does it mean to be an expert in gaming?
- What are the implications behind the phrase “I got a nice job”?
- What does “chilling” mean?
- Describe the various meanings of the verb “to quit” and its usage.
- Define the worst tattoo ever.
- What kind of song can be called a love ballad?
- What does a “dirty joke” mean?
- Define stand-up comedy.
- How would you interpret the phrase “couch potato”?
- Define humor in Family Guy.
- What does “drama queen” mean?
- Stereotypes and how they are used in movies and books.
- What does it mean to “skip classes”?
- What does “pulling an all-nighter” mean?
- What are good drinking habits?
- Reasons why silly movies make you feel good about yourself.
- What does “friendship zone” mean?
- In your opinion, what qualities does one need to have to be described as a player?
- What does it mean to “have a crush”?
- What does “to break up” mean?
- Define femininity and its attributes.
- What does the word “frenemies” mean?
- What dishes can be called Mediterranean?
- What does it mean to have a “cat nap”?
- What is a horoscope, and why are people so obsessed with it?
- How do you understand the expression “fake person”?
- What does it mean to be attractive?
- What is a Quentin Tarantino movie?
- Where does the phrase “sweet tooth” comes from?
- How would you define fashion?
- What does the phrase “Netflix and chill” mean?
- What does it mean “to cheat” on someone?
- What is WWE, and what social impact does it have on young people?
- Define cringe comedy and what makes it special.
- What does the internet slang word “simp” mean?
- What is a good selfie?
- The meaning behind the “blondes are stupid” stereotype.
- What does it mean to be a “gym rat”?
- What does it mean “to split the check”?
- What is binge-watching?
- What does it mean to be obsessed?
- What is lactose intolerance?
- Define a trend and its social effect.
Need even more ideas? Find them in our funny topics list!
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📚 Other Definition Essay Topics
Extended Definition Essay Topics
- The meaning of sensitivity .
- What makes a good husband?
- How do you define a mature person?
- What does it mean to be a good person?
- What makes someone trustworthy?
- How to know if someone is being sexist.
- What does it take to be charismatic?
- How do you define a happy marriage?
- Describe the characteristics of true leadership.
- Determine what can be called common sense.
- What constitutes progress?
- How can we define loyalty?
- Point out the implications of the word “pessimism.”
- What does it mean to respect yourself?
Extended definition essays need enough room for elaborate explanation and illustration. Unlike ordinary definition papers, they are more general. Besides, they are open to discussion, counterarguments, and doubts. Because of this, abstract concepts are an excellent starting point for a paper.
Society Definition Essay Topics
- What makes a good person?
- Explain how you understand equality.
- How can you define globalization?
- Determine the meaning of the word “respect” in today’s society.
- What does it mean to become an adult?
- When can a system be called just?
- Explain what patriarchy is.
- When is a child well-behaved?
- What do the words “masculinity” and “femininity” mean to you?
- Determine how peer pressure manifests itself.
- How can you define the term “mansplaining”?
Definition essays on society analyze social structures and human interaction. An individual’s perspective on society stems from various influences. It includes their cultural background, age, and gender. Choose one of the following prompts, and ask your relatives or friends what they think about it. You can find some additional helpful ideas in our sociology topics list.
History Definition Essay Topics
- What can we call a revolution?
- Define a hippie movement.
- What was the Land of Punt?
- What does independence mean for a country?
- What makes something “historic“?
- Explain the “Lebensreform” movement of the 1920s.
- Who were the Untouchables?
- Which events designate the end of the Medieval Period?
- Define the White movement during the Russian revolution.
- What does the term “Antebellum South” signify?
- What was the Pastry War?
Learning from history is integral to progress. If we understand our past failures, we can shape a better future. Writing about history grants exciting insights into various issues. There are even more essay ideas in our history topics list.
Politics Definition Essay Topics
- What does “anarchism” mean?
- Explain what constitutes liberal ideology.
- How does democracy work?
- How can you define monarchy?
- Determine when a regime can be called totalitarian.
- Define the meaning of the word “politics.”
- What are the implications of the word “democracy”?
- Describe a society that can be called communist.
- What defines a capitalistic system?
Definition essays on politics explore mechanisms of governance. There are only four major types of political systems, but there are infinite ways to implement them. Additionally, you can consult our list of compelling political topics to look into.
Mass Media Definition Essay Topics
- The origin of the word “media.”
- What does the term “mainstream” entail?
- What is the purpose of broadcasting?
- Define the different types of mass media.
- What is cross-media publishing?
- Define the term “publicity.”
- What makes a good cover story?
- Explain what television is.
- Describe different types of news articles.
- How does propaganda work?
- What is gonzo journalism?
- Come up with the definition of the word “sensationalism.”
- What does “gatekeeping” mean?
Mass media is various means of communication aiming to reach as much of the public as possible. Nowadays, it is nearly inescapable, which makes it an interesting subject to investigate.
Culture Definition Essay Topics
- What does the term “belief” mean to you?
- What makes a culture diverse?
- How is the notion of “global village” defined?
- What topics can be called taboo?
- Explain the notion of “zeitgeist.”
- Define the word “ritual.”
- What does your culture consider traditional values?
Culture encompasses abstract notions such as rituals, norms, and manners. Simply put, it has everything to do with people’s way of living. Besides, it expands into the worlds of art, religion, and law. Want some more ideas? Read our extensive list of culture essay topics.
Science and Technology Definition Essay Topics
- Explain what the term “smart technology” means.
- How does a CPU work?
- What does the term “science” encompass?
- What defines a vegetable?
- What is energy?
- What characterizes digital data?
- Where did the term “ecology” originate?
- Define the notion of time.
Technology becomes increasingly important with each passing day. The IT sector is developing particularly fast. For more inspiration, visit our page with topics on science and technology.
Sports Definition Essay Topics
- What does it mean to be in shape?
- What were the ancient Olympics?
- Explain the difference between American football and rugby.
- What makes a good chess player?
- When does an activity become a sport?
- Explain the word “agility.”
- What are the typical forms of indoor sports?
- What is the Tough Mudder?
- Define the difference between a sport and a game.
- What does the term “fitness” signify?
- What does it mean to be athletic?
- When does a sport become a niche sport?
- What is chess boxing?
- What makes a good football player?
- What constitutes the different types of wrestling?
Some enjoy sport as a healthy past-time activity. Others prefer to watch it on TV after a long day. With that in mind, it’s unsurprising that sport is one of the world’s biggest industries. You can find more ideas in our list of topics on sports.
Philosophy Definition Essay Topics
- How does boredom manifest itself?
- What does it mean to be beautiful?
- How can you define the word “freedom”?
- Define the word “passion.”
- What is devotion?
- How can you define an aura?
- What makes someone a villain?
- Determine the meaning of the word “justice.”
- What acts show that a person is selfish?
- What does it mean to be human?
- How does hatred show itself?
“I know that I know nothing.” To this day, Socrates is the prime example of a philosopher. However, philosophy is much more than a profession of ancient times. If you like pondering abstract concepts, have a look at our list of philosophy topics.
✅ Definition Essay Outline Structure & Writing Tips
Definition Essay: Before You Start
Step #1: Select a topic.
First of all, if your teacher has not specified a theme, you need to select a topic. It can be a subject you know well or something you care about. A bit of research prior to choosing a theme can help pinpoint potential problems. A good idea would be to use a topic generator for writing.
Step #2: Consider the audience.
Start by creating an outline and organizing your arguments. In doing so, keep your audience in mind. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who will read your essay?
- What do they already know about the subject?
- Are you addressing a specific group?
Identifying the audience helps to prevent under- or over-explanation. If you know who you are writing for, you know what kind of language to use.
Step #3: Choose a strategy.
Each type of academic writing has its own set of requirements. A definition paper needs to contain an explanation of a concept. Here are different strategies of explaining that you can use in an essay:
- By denotation. Denotation explains a term through its literal meaning. You can find it in a dictionary.
Example: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, nature is “a creative and controlling force in the universe”.
- By connotation. Connotation deals with the implications of a word. It can be positive, negative, or neutral. Have a look at this example: even though “old” and “vintage” have the same denotation, the connotation for “vintage” is more positive.
Example: My grandfather calls himself vintage, but I just think he’s old.
- By negation. Negation defines what the term is not.
Example: Freedom is not the absence of handcuffs.
- By analogy. An analogy juxtaposes two things that are similar to each other.
Example: Socks are like cages for the feet.
- By enumeration. An enumeration is a list of words that serve as an explanation.
Example: A hero is someone who is genuinely selfless, helps other people, and wears a cape.
Definition Essay Introduction
An introduction is the opening part of your essay, which sets the tone and piques the reader’s interest. In this part, you can briefly introduce the topic and develop a strong thesis statement.
- Start with a nice hook that draws attention to the subject.
- Follow it with a transition sentence that leads to the thesis.
- A good thesis statement usually gives its reader a clearly stated definition. That way, they can prepare themselves for the discussion and easily follow your paper.
Definition Essay Body
The body of your essay is a part that includes all the information you want to present to the reader. How you divide your body paragraphs and how many of them you have in your paper depends on the topic and how you choose to present it.
- Usually, the body consists of two to four paragraphs.
- Each body paragraph needs to include a topic sentence, which explains to the reader what this particular paragraph will discuss.
- Every new definition, idea, or argument should be explored in a separate paragraph. That makes your essay more cohesive and professional.
Definition Essay Conclusion
Wrap thing up with a good conclusion. This part of the essay usually summarizes most information from the body and reminds readers of the thesis.
- The summary shouldn’t be elaborate or too long. Only mention the key points.
- When you go back to the thesis statement, don’t use it in the exact same form, but rephrase the sentence while keeping the meaning.
📑 Definition Essay Example: Beauty
So we’ve mentioned all the essential points that can help you write a definition essay. Below, you will find an excellent sample you can use as reference or inspiration while working on your paper. You’re welcome to download the PDF file below:
Throughout centuries people have struggled to define the true meaning of beauty. This phenomenon has been and still is discussed in various literary works and movies. People strive to be beautiful, or they try to find beauty in their life. This essay will argue that beauty is an immense concept with aesthetical and sensual value and varies from person to person.
Definition of Beauty
We hope that this article will help you write a perfect essay! Don’t hesitate and start writing your own definition essay. If you have any questions or ideas on this topic, feel free to share them in the comment section.