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How to write a definition essay

The idea of using the structured format of an essay to define a word or term may seem an unnecessary and cumbersome task. After all, a quick browse through a dictionary will reveal the meaning of any word. However, in order to know how to write a Definition Essay, one must consider that words can be easily defined, but other seemingly simple terms can become extremely complex when examined in detail.

For instance, the word ‘window’. Obviously this is a term which describes a material usually fitting in a frame and allowing light to pass through. Of course, a definition essay could do no more than describe a window in this very simple way, but how many other ways are there to express the word ‘window’. Someone with a hectic schedule may mention finding a ‘window in his diary’ or even discover a ‘window of opportunity’. A poet may talk of eyes as being ‘windows on the world’. Often a word will mean different things to different people.

In order to write an interesting definition essay, it is necessary to pick a term which can withstand rigorous amounts of analysis. Our ‘window’ example has a universal meaning but can deviate from standard meaning when isolated. There are terms that ‘provoke’ when a definition is imposed upon them which may be disagreeable to others. In order to write a good definition essay, it is a good idea to introduce the term immediately in the introduction and to consider the usual implications of its meaning. In subsequent paragraphs, introduce elements which may stimulate an intellectual discussion.

Writing a definition essay

One such word which may induce such an argument is the term ‘disability’. The writer could explore the many questions which such a term might generate. What is a disability? At what point does a person qualify as being disabled? Should we say disabled person, or person with a disability? Would a ‘so called’ disabled person describe themselves as disabled? Those questions alone could represent four separate discussions or essays in themselves, but these sort of contentious terms make for the most interesting definition essays.

To know how to write a definition essay one must realise that a term or word hasn’t just accidently entered the English language by chance, but that most words have a definite historical and cultural background. For example, a word may have a meaning which, in contemporary society, seems vile or extremely offensive, but the word in its original or earlier context may have had a perfectly innocent, or even totally different meaning. It may be a good point of reference to reflect how a term has evolved in meaning through time.

Writing a good definition essay, therefore means putting your chosen term into context. This involves building a series of scenarios in which the word can be seen to be working as a tool of meaning. If you are trying to demonstrate the fluidity of language regarding your term, you could set it in a variety of contexts pertinent to its historical setting.

Writing a definition essay does not have to be difficult!

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