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How to Define a Word in an Essay: Text, Sentence, or Paragraph

How to Define a Word in an Essay

While writing your essay, you may feel the passion for using specific words that could be challenging for the reader to understand what you are referring to. In this guide, we teach you how to define a word in an essay, in a text, sentence, or within a paragraph.

In as much as you understand the easy topic inside out, the potential reader may hang while reading new vocabulary. 

It could be awkward if you write word-to-word definitions from your dictionary. Also, it could disorganize or be confusing if you use the definition in the wrong part.

The best way to use definitions effectively is by using your own words and remaining concise. You can opt to introduce definitions in the essay’s body instead of in the introduction. 

Defining Word in an Essay

Before elaborating on the word in definition terms, determine whether the word is unusual enough to require a definition.

While is it acceptable for you to define technical jargon in your essay, avoid defining every advanced vocabulary in the essay. 

Rephrase the definition in your own words. You must include a full quotation if you are word-to-word definition from the dictionary. For instance, you can make the sentence flow better by

defining a word like ‘workout’, as follows: “Workout is an exercise of improving one’s fitness and performance.”

If you are using in-text citations, you should cite the dictionary or the textbook that you took the definition from when you end the sentences.

When it is the first time you are using such a source, then use the full title backed by the abbreviation. By doing correct referencing of the definition source you used, you will be avoiding plagiarism in your essay. 

Let the definition be in the body and not the introduction since the introduction ought to catch the reader’s attention as you lay your thesis. Alternatively, if you want to avoid defining a word, then use synonyms.

Keep the definition as short as possible. But, if you believe the definition could belong, then you can break it into shorter sentences to bring clarity to your essay. 

How to Define a Word in a Sentence

Do you want to explain something in the middle of the sentence without confusing the reader? 

How to define a word in a sentence

While it is true that you may be harboring a lot of terminologies in your context that require some explanation, you must do it tactfully to promote the flow of your sentences well. 

There are three ways you can insert a definition in the mid-sentence as provided by the following examples. 

1. By Using Commas

You can use commas as a way of punctuating your sentence to enhance the meaning. For example:

“John and Joseph had to see Bill gates, the leader of Microsoft Corporation, and advise him….”

2. Em and En Dashes 

They are not synonymous with hyphens but are needed to punctuate your sentence and restore your intended meaning. For example, we can paraphrase the above sentence to appear as follows:

“John and Joseph had to see Bill gates — the leader of Microsoft Corporation — and advise him….”

3. Parenthetical Aside

It is also another suitable method to use when inserting a definition in the mid-sentence to update the reader with additional facts. 

“John and Joseph had to see Bill gates (the leader of Microsoft Corporation) and advise him….”

How to Quote a Definition in a Sentence/Essay

When writing your essay, you will encounter such issues, which are usually unavoidable. If we assume that you are using APA style for referencing, one must quote a definition inside double quotes. 

How to Quote a Definition in a Sentence/Essay

That is “Definition,” and put the author, year, and page numbers. 

A definition in an essay examples

  • McCarthy and George (1990) defined the essay as “a literary composition which represents author’s arguments on a specific topic.” P.87
  • An essay is “a literary composition which represents author’s arguments on a specific topic.” (McCarthy and George, 1990, P.87)
  • McCarthy and George (1990, P.87) defined an essay as “a literary composition which represents author’s arguments on a specific topic.”

Such definitions come in handy when you are writing essays that require you to understand one thing well. A good example is when writing a comparison essay or a definition essay. Let us explore how to write a definition essay here.

Tips on How to Write a Definition Essay

A definition essay could be a piece of writing where you write your own meaning. One must ensure that you research your definition well and support it with evidence.

In addition, it could be an explanation of what specific terms mean in your context. This becomes a paragraph. Check out how to write good definition paragraphs and understand them from another perspective.

Writing a definition essay

Some of the terms could have literal meanings, like a phone, tablet, or spoon.

Other abstracts, such as truth, love, or success, will depend on the person’s point of view.

Different papers carry varying meanings; hence when writing one, you must be precise to help the reader understand what you are talking about. 

It could be reasonable if you remain unique as you write a definition essay. Avoid expressing meaning using the same words.

Before you choose a definition essay topic, ensure that you select an abstract word that has a complex meaning. Also, ensure that the same word is indisputable.

Tips on How to Define a Word in a Text or Paragraph

1. Select a Word

The main point of view when writing an essay is selecting an idea or concept. Select a word that will describe an idea like hate, love, etc., and ensure that you understand the term you are choosing completely. 

You can read from the dictionary but avoid extracting the definition from there. Instead, explain it in your own words.

Suppose your concept is open, then find your unique definition based on experience. After that, find the basis to support your definitions. 

2. Select a Word That You Know

It is suitable to settle for the word that you are familiar with and you have a basic understanding of the word. Doing so helps you to write easily. For example, you can select a word like ‘pride’ because you understand its meaning and what it feels as you use it in your context. 

3. Select a Word With Different Meanings 

Selecting a word with plural meanings comes in handy when you believe it will bring a different meaning to various people. As you write about it, there is an opportunity to involve your understanding and interpretations of other people. 

For example, one can select a word like “love” because it comes with varying meanings. Every person will understand and interoperate it uniquely. 

4. Avoid Specific Things and Objects 

Stay away from selecting such things as “cups “or “pillow” because it complicates your writing because you cannot write a lot on specific objects. That makes the essay appear superficial and not shrewd enough.  

5. Go Online

With an internet connection, you can seek an online platform and get enough information about what you want. The internet has several scholarly academic blogs and articles.

Additionally, you can still access videos created by smart people who deeply researched different words and shared them with you.   

6. Access the Dictionary 

It is true that every official word has a deeper dictionary meaning. Tactfully, it is vital that you familiarize yourself with yourself before using it in your contexts.

You must take a closer look at the definition structure before deciding to use it. Ensure that you explain it in your own understanding when writing about it. 

7. Know the Origin of the Word

Before using a specific word, it is critical to study and understand its origin. One way of researching the word is involving encyclopedias to get theories and ideas about that particular word.

For instance, if you are picking a word in the medical field, then you should consult the encyclopedia in the medical field.

8. Ask Colleagues  

While it is crucial to have your perspective about the word, you can still ask friends and family about the meaning of that particular word.

Let them explain to you what it feels when you mention such a particular word. Later, you can record the answers and utilize them as your sources.