The Best Definition Essay Topics

A definition essay is one of the most straightforward types of essays. You take a word or concept and give a detailed definition and interpretation of the word's meaning. A definition essay doesn't necessarily have to define a single word. You could also define a phrase or concept.

You will likely have a general topic to choose from if your professor assigns a definition essay. For example if you are writing a definition essay in your philosophy class, you might be asked to write a definition essay on the subject of ethics. From that broad subject, you would have to choose a topic. You could choose something such as justice or responsibility as your topic. To write a definition essay you have to know how to go about picking a good essay topic.

Qualities of a Good Definition Essay Topic

A good definition essay topic is a word or a concept that is broad enough that the word has many different meanings. You want the different definitions to conflict with one another and have contrasting meanings, which will give you something significant to discuss in your paper. A good rule of thumb is that if the meaning of the topic or idea is obvious, then it isn't a good topic to write a paper on. You will likely run out of things to write about long before you've met the essay length requirement.

You should also make sure that you are able to discuss the meaning fairly from all sides. You can certainly advocate for a particular meaning and give arguments to back up your thesis, but you have to make sure that you are able to respect the other viewpoints. Don't pick a topic that you have such a strong opinion on that you cannot see the other side.

Sample Definition Essay Topics and Ideas

  • Justice
  • Human Rights
  • Beginning of life (conception vs. birth argument)
  • Cruel and unusual punishment
  • The American Dream
  • Literature
  • Beauty

Do not take the definition essay so literally. Yes it is important to define the word, but this is just one segment of the essay. The most important part is sifting through the different definitions, and offering an argument for why one interpretation should prevail over the others. This will ensure that you have plenty of things to write about when you write a definition essay.