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Definition Essay Topics

March 03, 2014 - Posted to Assignment Topics Definition Essay Topics

Writing the Definition Essay

How do you define peace? How would a Syrian define peace? How would a harried and harassed mom define peace? How would a Tibetan monk define peace? Each definition would be completely tied to the individual’s person experiences, of course. And that is why there is such a thing as a definition essay. As a college student, you need to think about these abstract terms and begin to define them for yourself – that’s part of maturing. And, over your lifetime, these definitions will certainly change.

Choosing a Topic

Most definition essay assignments will come from an English comp class, but not always. And, you will probably have your choice of definition essay topics. My advice? Pick a term that interests you and that you know you have strong feelings about. These are always better essays. To get you started, here are some possible terms for a definition essay:

  1. Happiness: Whole books are written on this term, and what is happiness to one person is certainly not happiness to another. As well, that definition will change significantly during a person’s lifetime. You must define it for yourself and then convince a reader that how you define it is important. For an essay on happiness, try to come up with three things or situations that comprise happiness for you. There’s your three body paragraphs.
  2. Friendship: What have been your experiences with friendship during your lifetime so far? These will affect your definition of the term. Find three things about friendship that are critical to you.
  3. Peace: Is peace the complete absence of problems, conflicts and issues, or is it more one’s ability to deal with these things in a calm manner.
  4. Success: Wow. Here is definitely a loaded term. If you come up with three things that mean success to you, it is almost a guarantee that they will not be the same three things that your roommate or your grandparent will come up with.
  5. Mental Health: Here’s a topic you may be assigned in a basic psychology course, and there are about as many definitions a there are psychologists out there
  6. Morality: This term can be defined from a religious or a secular position, and the aspects may be different. Some people will have absolute definitions; others will have more situational definitions
  7. Justice: A very “loaded” term often defined with a lot of emotion involved. Are there three aspects to this term that are critical to you?
  8. Family: The definition of family has undergone a lot of evolutionary changes. What does it mean to you right now?
  9. Culture: You can of course give a “textbook” definition, but why not branch out from that definition and come up with your own? How many different cultures are you apart of?
  10. Equality: This is a topic on which entire books are written. Identify three conditions that you think meet the definition.
  11. Democracy: Yes, if you have taken even a basic political science or government course, you know that people’s definitions of democracy are very different. What does it mean to you?
  12. Freedom: Is this always just doing what you want or must this term have a broader definition?
  13. Honesty: Does this mean that one tells the truth in all circumstances or does honesty have a more subject or situational definition?

Most Definition Essays are Persuasive in Nature

While a definition essay is certainly considered an explanatory piece of writing, defining abstract terms is often quite personal and certainly subjective. While you are not trying to openly convince your reader that your definition is the absolutely correct one, you are at least subtly doing so.

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