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Choose a word to define

Definition Essay (2-3 pages)

For this essay, you will choose a word that has an ambiguous meaning and describe it.


  1. Choose a word to define. When writing a definition essay, one of the first and most important things you will do is choose a word that has a complex and subjective meaning. This means that even though you could probably look up the word in the dictionary, it would need further elaboration for someone to effectively grasp the meaning of it. Instead of choosing a word that has only a concrete meaning (ie. coat or candy), you should choose a word to define that has an abstract meaning (ie. honor or valor).  When you choose a word, you may want to come up with several possibilities and then narrow it down. Try free writing about the word you’ve chosen. If you find that you’re unable to think of much to say about what you’ve chosen, you can choose a new word to define instead.
  2. Present a clearly stated, basic definition of the word (that is not copied form the dictionary). This basic definition of the word that you choose will serve as your thesis for the essay. The rest of your essay will support the definition you’ve decided on.
  3. Ensure that the word has a deeper meaning and brainstorm how you’d like to elaborate. Defining the word means looking at the actual definition for help, but it also means using your own experiences and understanding to help communicate that definition. You can use personal/ impersonal anecdotes, examples, illustrations, and details to help clarify the meaning for your reader.


An example of the process:

1)     Choose a word. If you look up the definition for the word “community,” it might say “people who live near each other.” However, if you really wanted to define community, you might want to provide more details.

2)     Provide a clearly stated, basic definition. For my definition, I want to focus on the fact that community is a group of people who chooses to connect with and spend time with each other, and they enjoy each other’s company. I’ll add that they are generally friends, have similar interests, and pull together when times are rough. However, a lot of this information I would want to save for the body of my essay as I elaborate on my definition. So, I decide on the following thesis statement: While community could be defined as a group of people who live near each other, community is instead a group of people who are able to depend on each other through all circumstances, regardless of how close their houses are.


3)     How I would further elaborate: If I had to choose a personal example of community, I would pick a time when a young couple in Illinois had severe pregnancy issues and ended up miscarrying. A group of their friends came together and hosted a 5k to raise money for the couple’s medical expenses. More people within the town came out to support the couple. This is an excellent example of community, because it examples a group of people who live life together and pull together when times are hard. I would include details like they are generally friends and have similar interests to support my definition.

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