Definition Argument Essay Paper

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For a definition argument essay, you should choose a controversial concept and argue for the definition you find the most appropriate. Check the topic ideas below to see whether any appeals to you.

  • Ambition.
  • Based on the dictionary definitions and real-world examples, determine whether ambition is generally considered a good or bad human feature. Do people call someone “ambitious” to praise or to reproach?

  • American dream.
  • Explore how the definition of “the American dream” has changed since its emergence. Is there a generally accepted definition today or these words mean different things to different people?

  • Charisma.
  • This feature is attributed to great leaders, such as Steve Jobs or Napoleon, but many people are still confused about what exactly this word means. Look at the various definitions of charisma, and try to formulate your own one.

  • Ego.
  • Originally, “ego” was a psychological term with no negative connotations, but now “a large ego” or “egoist” is commonly used to mean a selfish person. Discuss why, in your opinion, this change has occurred, or whether this negative use is justified.

  • Honor.
  • Some people say that the concept of “honor” is obsolete today. Look closer at the definitions of this word, and decide whether you agree or not.

  • Humor.
  • Humor is something we can hardly imagine our lives without, but there is not a single generally accepted definition of it. Argue for the one you find to be the closest.

  • Music.
  • What makes the difference between music and noise? Can any natural sounds, e. g. those of rain or waves, be considered music, or it can only refer to man-made tunes? You may also discuss a definition of a particular music genre, such as rock or rhythm-and-blues music – there is much controversy around those as well.

  • Optimism.
  • Optimism is typically viewed as an individual’s ability to see the brighter sides of things and considered a positive quality. If you produce a well-supported argument that optimism is misunderstood (or not always good), your essay will definitely stand out.

  • Success.
  • Perhaps one of the most controversial definitions is that of success. Discuss whether it should be associated with wealth and fame, or rather with happiness and a feeling of satisfaction.

  • True love.
  • While “love” is an extensively broad subject to discuss, the concept of “true love” is more manageable. Argue whether it is rightful to divide love in “true” and “untrue” sorts. If the word combination “true love” is in fact an oxymoron, why do you think people keep using it?

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    What is a Definition Essay?

    A definition essay is writing that explains what a term means. Some terms have definite, concrete meanings, such as glass, book, or tree. Terms such as honesty, honor, or love are abstract and depend more on a person's point of view.

    Three Steps to Effective Definition

    1. Tell readers what term is being defined.
    2. Present clear and basic information.
    3. Use facts, examples, or anecdotes that readers will understand.

    Choosing a Definition

    Choosing a definition is a key step in writing a definition essay. You need to understand the term before you can define it for others. Read the dictionary, but don't just copy the definition. Explain the term briefly in your own words. Also, it's important to limit your term before you start defining it. For example, you could write forever on the term "love." To limit it, you would write about either "romantic love," "platonic love," or "first love."

    Thesis Statement of a Definition Essay

    The thesis statement usually identifies the term being defined and provides a brief, basic definition.

    (term) (basic definition)

    Ex: Assertiveness is standing up for your rights.

    How To Write an Effective Definition

    1. Create a definition. There are several ways to define a term. Here are a few options.
      • Define by function. Explain what something does or how something works.
      • Define by structure. Tell how something is organized or put together.
      • Define by analysis. Compare the term to other members of its class and then illustrate the differences. These differences are special characteristics that make the term stand out. For example, compare a Siberian husky to other dogs, such as lap dogs, mutts, or sporting dogs.

        (term) (precise definition)

        Ex: A Siberian husky is a dog reputed for its ability to tolerate cold, its distinctive features, and its keen strength and stamina.

      • Define by what the term does not mean. This distinction can sometimes clarify a definition and help a reader to better understand it.
    2. Use understandable facts, examples, or anecdotes. Select facts, examples, or anecdotes to fully explain your definition. Ask yourself, "Which examples will best help readers understand the term? What examples would most appeal to my readers? Will a brief story reveal the term's meaning?" Do not use any examples that will not support the definition.

    Remember: A definition essay is writing that explains what a term means. When writing a definition essay, remember to tell readers what term is being defined, to present a clear and basic definition, and to use facts, examples, or anecdotes that readers will understand

    Here are the examples of popular definition essay topics:

    • Kindness
    • Sense of Humor
    • Love
    • ...

    Whatever essay topic you choose, you should be interested in the subject and familiar with it. It would be great if you had your personal experience in the matter you are going to define.


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