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.

To write a successful definition paper, you need to provide a unique view on your chosen subject. In this article, we have compiled a list of the best definition essay topics for high school and college students.

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✍️  Extended Definition Essay Topics

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, counter arguments, and doubts. Because of this, abstract concepts are an excellent starting point for a paper.

  1. What makes someone a hero?
  2. What is for you happiness?
  3. Explain what it means to be charismatic.
  4. What is the sense of humor?
  5. How can we define laziness?

Definitions can be extended, formal, or informal.

  1. How would you explain the meaning of the word “addiction”?
  2. Describe the characteristics of true leadership.
  3. How does creativity manifest itself?
  4. Determine what can be called common sense.
  5. What constitutes progress?
  6. What does it mean to be proud?
  7. How can we define loyalty?
  8. Point out the implications of the word “pessimism.”
  9. How do people show courage?
  10. What does it mean to respect yourself?

🧑🤝🧑  Society Definition Essay Topics

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 will probably receive some exciting and useful ideas!

  1. What makes a good person?
  2. Explain how you understand equality.
  3. How can you define globalization?
  4. What does the term “white privilege” signify?
  5. What does “family” mean?
  6. Determine the meaning of the word “respect” in today’s society.
  7. What does it mean to become an adult?
  8. What is feminism?
  9. When can a system be called just?
  10. Explain what patriarchy is.
  11. When is a child well-behaved?
  12. What do the words “masculinity” and “femininity” mean to you?
  13. What does the concept of “glass ceiling” signify?
  14. Determine the ways in which peer pressure manifests itself.
  15. How can you define the term “mansplaining”?

🏺  History Definition Essay Topics

Learning from history is integral to progress. If we understand our past failures, we can shape a better future. Writing about history grants interesting insights on various issues. Here are some good definition essay topics on history:

  1. What can we call a revolution?
  2. Define a hippie movement.
  3. Explain who the Suffragettes were.
  4. What was the Land of Punt?
  5. What is colonization?
  6. What does independence mean for a country?
  7. How can you define “history”?

Michael Crichton quote.

  1. Explain the “Lebensreform” movement of the 1920s.
  2. Who were the Untouchables?
  3. Which events designate the end of the Medieval Period?
  4. Define the White movement during the Russian revolution.
  5. What was the Arab Spring?
  6. Explain who Joan of Arc was.
  7. What does the term “Antebellum South” signify?
  8. What was the Pastry War?

🌐  Politics Definition Essay Topics

Definition essays on politics explore mechanisms of governance. There are only four major types of political systems, but an infinite number of ways to implement them. Below is a list of compelling subjects to look into:

  1. What does “anarchism” mean?
  2. How does the system of checks and balances work?
  3. Explain what constitutes liberal ideology.
  4. How does democracy work?
  5. How can you define monarchy?
  6. Determine when a regime can be called totalitarian.
  7. Define the meaning of the word “politics.”
  8. What is McCarthyism?
  9. What does it take to be a political party?
  10. What are the implications of the word “democracy”?
  11. Describe a society that can be called communist.
  12. What defines a capitalistic system?

Four types of political systems.

  1. How do electoral systems work?
  2. How can you define the term “witch hunt”?
  3. What is Gerrymandering?

📺  Mass Media Definition Essay Topics

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 attractive topic to investigate. Consult our list for a hand-picked selection of writing prompts concerning mass media.

  1. The origin of the word “media.”
  2. What does the term “mainstream” entail?
  3. What is the purpose of broadcasting?
  4. Define the different types of mass media.
  5. What is cross-media publishing?
  6. Define the term “publicity.”
  7. What makes a good cover story?
  8. Explain what television is.
  9. Describe different types of news articles.
  10. Define the word “communication.”
  11. How does propaganda work?
  12. What is gonzo journalism?
  13. Come up with the definition of the word “sensationalism.”
  14. What does “gatekeeping” mean?
  15. How can you explain what “radio” is?

🎨  Culture Definition Essay Topics

Culture encompasses abstract notions such as rituals, norms, and manners. However, it also includes material things, such as the way people dress. Simply put, culture is concerned with a people’s way of living. Besides, it expands into the worlds of art, religion, and law.

  1. What does the term “belief” mean to you?
  2. What makes a culture diverse?
  3. How does a culture shock feel?
  4. How is the notion “global village” defined?
  5. How does “stereotype” mean?
  6. What is “cultural appropriation”?
  7. What topics can be called taboo?
  8. Explain the notion of “zeitgeist.”
  9. What is “secularization”?
  10. Define the word “ritual.”
  11. What does your culture consider traditional values?
  12. What does the notion of “civilization” describe?

Franklin D. Roosevelt quote.

  1. Explain what cultural techniques are.
  2. What is “everyday life”?
  3. What type of culture is agriculture?

🔬  Science and Technology Definition Essay Topics

Technology becomes increasingly important with each passing day. The IT sector is developing particularly fast. To keep track of all the groundbreaking innovations is almost impossible. The list below presents some useful examples for definition essays on topic of technology:

  1. What are fossil fuels?
  2. How does an area become polluted?
  3. How can you define renewable energy sources?
  4. Explain what the term “smart technology” means.
  5. How does a CPU work?
  6. Define the word “technology.”
  7. What does the term “science” encompass?
  8. What defines a vegetable?
  9. What is energy?
  10. What characterizes digital data?
  11. How does blockchain work?
  12. What is weather?
  13. Explain the use of cryptocurrency.
  14. Where did the term “ecology” originate?
  15. Define the notion of time.

🏅  Sports Definition Essay Topics

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 not surprising that sport is one of the world’s biggest industries. Here are some definition paper topics on sports:

  1. What does it mean to be in shape?
  2. What were the ancient Olympics?

The first ever Olympic Games took place in 776 B.C.

  1. Explain the difference between American football and rugby.
  2. What makes a good chess player?
  3. When does an activity become a sport?
  4. Explain the word “agility.”
  5. What are the typical forms of indoor sports?
  6. What is the Tough Mudder?
  7. Define the difference between a sport and a game.
  8. What does the term “fitness” signify?
  9. What does it mean to be athletic?
  10. When does a sport become a niche sport?
  11. What is chess boxing?
  12. What makes a good football player?
  13. What constitutes the different types of wrestling?

📜  Philosophy Definition Essay Topics

“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 this list:

  1. How does boredom manifest itself?
  2. What does it mean to be beautiful?
  3. How can you define the word “freedom”?
  4. What does “friendship” mean?
  5. Define the word “passion.”
  6. What is devotion?
  7. What does the notion of “home” mean to you?
  8. How can you define an aura?
  9. Explain the Categorical Imperative.
  10. What makes someone a villain?
  11. Determine the meaning of the word “justice.”
  12. What does it mean to love someone or something?
  13. What acts show that a person is selfish?
  14. What does it mean to be human?
  15. How does hatred show itself?

✅  Definition Essay Writing Tips

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 that you care about. A bit of research prior to choosing a theme can help pinpoint potential problems.

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.

💡  Strategies for a Definition Essay

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 Merriam-Webster, 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.
    Example: My grandfather calls himself vintage, but I just think he’s old.
    (Even though “old” and “vintage” have the same denotation, the connotation for “vintage” is more positive)
  • 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 examples.
    Example: A hero is someone who is truly selfless, helps other people, and wears a cape.

📝  Definition Essay: Step-By-Step Guide

Once your general direction is clear, you need to know the course of actions for writing a definition paper. These are the most important steps towards a perfect essay:

  1. Formulate a thesis statement. This is a concise hypothesis that you introduce in the first paragraph of every essay. A sample thesis statement for a definition essay on love could be “Exploring the notion of love often leads to contradicting subjective positions.
  2. Give your statement some background. Easy solutions for this are a dictionary definition or etymology.
  3. Discuss the features your subject possesses. Don’t forget to include examples!
  4. Make it personal. For instance, you can write about your own experience connected with your essay topic.
  5. Wrap up everything nicely. The conclusion connects the paper’s key arguments to the initial thesis statement.

With all this in mind, you can create a first draft of your definition paper. Answer every point individually. After that, add explanations for things that might be unclear. Last but not least, don’t skip proofreading and editing.

We hope that this article will help you write a perfect essay!

🔍  References