Definition Essay

A graph image of the structure of a definition essay.

Definition is a rhetorical style that uses various techniques to impress upon the reader the meaning of a term, idea, or concept. Definition may be used for an entire essay but is often used as a rhetorical style within an essay that may mix rhetorical styles. For example, you may need to use definition in order to fully explain a concept before you make an argument about that concept.

A definition essay is structured around the goal of defining a term, concept, or idea. While you may start off with a simple dictionary definition, your essay will, ultimately, contain an extended definition. There are many techniques you can use to extend a definition in a definition essay (to be discussed further).


NOTE: A common pitfall in writing a definition essay is assuming your readers know the connotation (the implied meaning) of a specific word. It’s important to remember that there are both literal and implied meanings to words and concepts, something that will be discussed in more detail on the next page.

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