How To Write Definition Essays: 10 Interesting Topics To Explore

A definition essay is exactly what it sounds like—a paper which defines, or explains what a term means. Sometime the topic is easily defined, but sometime the definition is more subjective. The later often makes a more interesting topic. However explaining a complex issue in a way that is approachable to the average person can also make an excellent paper.

The first step to choosing a top notch definition essay topic is to make sure that you clearly understand your teacher’s assignment. Whether or not they have provided a topic, they’ll likely have given you some guidance and requirements in the assignment or in a grading rubric. Be sure you understand them well before getting started, otherwise you’re grade will suffer no matter how good a paper you produce.

You can use these definition essay topics as is, or you can use them as a jumping off point and make them your own.

  1. What are subprime mortgage and how did they contribute to the recession in the United States?
  2. What defines success?
  3. What is maturity, and how can it be recognized?
  4. What is honor?
  5. What are the factors that define something as right or wrong?
  6. What is privilege? Does its definition change for different people?
  7. What makes something or someone kind?
  8. What is the goal of the American criminal justice system?
  9. What is sentience, and what or who does it extend to?
  10. What is guilt and what motivates it?

When choosing a topic for your definition essay, you should try to choose something that you either feel strongly about, feel you have a unique perspective to offer about it, or that you feel others could benefit from having explained to them. In general try to stay away from defining something that most everyone already understand, in the way that they understand it.

Once you have chosen a topic, be sure to provide evidence in your definition topic to back up your definition. This can be evidence from a text, history, or commonly held belief. Regardless of the origin of the evidence, it should back up your definition. Evidence is particularly important if your topic is subjective or controversial. While a definition essay is sometimes straightforward, it often ends up functioning essentially as an argument paper, where you are building an argument to convince your reader of your definition.