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Connotative Definition Essay Topics

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  • Some people say that the concept of “honor” is obsolete today.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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    How to write a definition essay outline: following the manual


    One of the most misunderstood essay projects is the definition essay. While the essay itself is actually quite enjoyable to write, most students fear this essay because they know so little about it. Once they learn how to write it and they learn about the word they are defining, they quickly realize that their fear was due to misunderstanding. Interestingly, when students are finished writing their first definition essay, they are ready to write another one.

    The outline of the definition essay is similar to the outline of any other essay. The biggest difference in the definition essay versus the other types of essays is that the definition essay discusses a word or concept and what it means through denotation and connotation. This is what your essay outline should resemble:


    1. Introductory Section

      • Hook/Attention Getter: Begin with one of the many different techniques, like a short anecdote, an extended definition, or a collection of open-ended questions.
      • Bridge between the hook and the thesis: Include a few sentences that help the reader understand what your essay will define.
      • Thesis: This should include the word you are going to define and how you plan to define it.

    2. Body Paragraphs

      • First point about the word.
        • - Define the word in a topic sentence that refers back to the thesis.
        • - Show examples of the word being used this way.
        • - Provide an analysis of the word being used.
      • Second point about the word.
        • - Define the word in a topic sentence that refers back to the thesis.
        • - Show examples of the word being used this way.
        • - Provide an analysis of the word being used.
      • Third point about the word
        • - Define the word in a topic sentence that refers back to the thesis.
        • - Show examples of the word being used this way.
        • - Provide an analysis of the word being used.

        (Continue this section in as many paragraphs as you need or as required by your instructor. In most cases, you should include at least three examples in each paragraph and each example should be analyzed.)


    3. Conclusion

      • Restate the thesis in new words.
      • Restate the main points of the essay with references from all of the body paragraphs.
      • Connect back to the hook/attention getter to close the essay.

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