Definition Essay Examples

Definition Essay

A definition essay does exactly what the name implies-provides a definition of a term, idea, or concept. A writer may use definition as part of a larger essay or topic, but a definition essay is an entire text devoted to giving the reader a well-rounded definition of a complex idea, term, or concept.


In a definition essay, a writer would attempt to provide the reader not only with the literal definition, but with the broader connotation of an idea. For example, in an essay on "freedom," the writer would not only talk about the literal definition of what it means to be "free," but with the connotations associated with the word and the connection of the idea of "freedom" to the larger context of patriotism, revolution, etc.


Definition essays often address terms or concepts that are controversial, multi-faceted, or that can be seen or interpreted from a multitude of viewpoints.

Examples of Definition Essay:

This paragraph is excerpted from an essay that attempts to define "church":


The church was a brick and mortar building. Red bricks, with white trim around the doors and windows and a white steeple pointing to the heavens. The building was nearly 100 years old, so cracks were showing in the mortar around the bricks and on a damp day, floorboards creaked and my nose could pick up the smell of 100 years of damp days from the old lumber. The church was the building, yes, but the building was not the church. The church was more. The church was the wrinkled face of Miss Mary Anne who taught me the names of the disciples and the words to "Jesus Loves Me." The church was the shrill cackle of 100 year old "Aunt Jimmie," who came every Sunday smelling of Kleenex tissues and fried chicken. The church was the soft hands and warm hugs. The church was the handshakes and pats on the back. The church was the casseroles and pound cakes that arrived in our kitchen the day my little brother died.

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