• Literary Terms
  • Definition & Examples
  • When & How to Write an Essay

I. What is an Essay?

An essay is a form of writing in paragraph form that uses informal language, although it can be written formally. Essays may be written in first-person point of view (I, ours, mine), but third-person (people, he, she) is preferable in most academic essays. Essays do not require research as most academic reports and papers do; however, they should cite any literary works that are used within the paper.

When thinking of essays, we normally think of the five-paragraph essay: Paragraph 1 is the introduction, paragraphs 2-4 are the body covering three main ideas, and paragraph 5 is the conclusion. Sixth and seventh graders may start out with three paragraph essays in order to learn the concepts. However, essays may be longer than five paragraphs. Essays are easier and quicker to read than books, so are a preferred way to express ideas and concepts when bringing them to public attention.

II. Examples of Essays

Many of our most famous Americans have written essays. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson wrote essays about being good citizens and concepts to build the new United States. In the pre-Civil War days of the 1800s, people such as:

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (an author) wrote essays on self-improvement
  • Susan B. Anthony wrote on women’s right to vote
  • Frederick Douglass wrote on the issue of African Americans’ future in the U.S.

Through each era of American history, well-known figures in areas such as politics, literature, the arts, business, etc., voiced their opinions through short and long essays.

The ultimate persuasive essay that most students learn about and read in social studies is the “Declaration of Independence” by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. Other founding fathers edited and critiqued it, but he drafted the first version. He builds a strong argument by stating his premise (claim) then proceeds to give the evidence in a straightforward manner before coming to his logical conclusion.

III. Types of Essays

A. expository.

Essays written to explore and explain ideas are called expository essays (they expose truths). These will be more formal types of essays usually written in third person, to be more objective. There are many forms, each one having its own organizational pattern.  Cause/Effect essays explain the reason (cause) for something that happens after (effect). Definition essays define an idea or concept. Compare/ Contrast essays will look at two items and show how they are similar (compare) and different (contrast).

b. Persuasive

An argumentative paper presents an idea or concept with the intention of attempting to change a reader’s mind or actions . These may be written in second person, using “you” in order to speak to the reader. This is called a persuasive essay. There will be a premise (claim) followed by evidence to show why you should believe the claim.

c. Narrative

Narrative means story, so narrative essays will illustrate and describe an event of some kind to tell a story. Most times, they will be written in first person. The writer will use descriptive terms, and may have paragraphs that tell a beginning, middle, and end in place of the five paragraphs with introduction, body, and conclusion. However, if there is a lesson to be learned, a five-paragraph may be used to ensure the lesson is shown.

d. Descriptive

The goal of a descriptive essay is to vividly describe an event, item, place, memory, etc. This essay may be written in any point of view, depending on what’s being described. There is a lot of freedom of language in descriptive essays, which can include figurative language, as well.

IV. The Importance of Essays

Essays are an important piece of literature that can be used in a variety of situations. They’re a flexible type of writing, which makes them useful in many settings . History can be traced and understood through essays from theorists, leaders, artists of various arts, and regular citizens of countries throughout the world and time. For students, learning to write essays is also important because as they leave school and enter college and/or the work force, it is vital for them to be able to express themselves well.

V. Examples of Essays in Literature

Sir Francis Bacon was a leading philosopher who influenced the colonies in the 1600s. Many of America’s founding fathers also favored his philosophies toward government. Bacon wrote an essay titled “Of Nobility” in 1601 , in which he defines the concept of nobility in relation to people and government. The following is the introduction of his definition essay. Note the use of “we” for his point of view, which includes his readers while still sounding rather formal.

 “We will speak of nobility, first as a portion of an estate, then as a condition of particular persons. A monarchy, where there is no nobility at all, is ever a pure and absolute tyranny; as that of the Turks. For nobility attempers sovereignty, and draws the eyes of the people, somewhat aside from the line royal. But for democracies, they need it not; and they are commonly more quiet, and less subject to sedition, than where there are stirps of nobles. For men’s eyes are upon the business, and not upon the persons; or if upon the persons, it is for the business’ sake, as fittest, and not for flags and pedigree. We see the Switzers last well, notwithstanding their diversity of religion, and of cantons. For utility is their bond, and not respects. The united provinces of the Low Countries, in their government, excel; for where there is an equality, the consultations are more indifferent, and the payments and tributes, more cheerful. A great and potent nobility, addeth majesty to a monarch, but diminisheth power; and putteth life and spirit into the people, but presseth their fortune. It is well, when nobles are not too great for sovereignty nor for justice; and yet maintained in that height, as the insolency of inferiors may be broken upon them, before it come on too fast upon the majesty of kings. A numerous nobility causeth poverty, and inconvenience in a state; for it is a surcharge of expense; and besides, it being of necessity, that many of the nobility fall, in time, to be weak in fortune, it maketh a kind of disproportion, between honor and means.”

A popular modern day essayist is Barbara Kingsolver. Her book, “Small Wonders,” is full of essays describing her thoughts and experiences both at home and around the world. Her intention with her essays is to make her readers think about various social issues, mainly concerning the environment and how people treat each other. The link below is to an essay in which a child in an Iranian village she visited had disappeared. The boy was found three days later in a bear’s cave, alive and well, protected by a mother bear. She uses a narrative essay to tell her story.

VI. Examples of Essays in Pop Culture

Many rap songs are basically mini essays, expressing outrage and sorrow over social issues today, just as the 1960s had a lot of anti-war and peace songs that told stories and described social problems of that time. Any good song writer will pay attention to current events and express ideas in a creative way.

A well-known essay written in 1997 by Mary Schmich, a columnist with the Chicago Tribune, was made into a popular video on MTV by Baz Luhrmann. Schmich’s thesis is to wear sunscreen, but she adds strong advice with supporting details throughout the body of her essay, reverting to her thesis in the conclusion.

Baz Luhrmann - Everybody's Free To Wear Sunscreen

VII. Related Terms

Research paper.

Research papers follow the same basic format of an essay. They have an introductory paragraph, the body, and a conclusion. However, research papers have strict guidelines regarding a title page, header, sub-headers within the paper, citations throughout and in a bibliography page, the size and type of font, and margins. The purpose of a research paper is to explore an area by looking at previous research. Some research papers may include additional studies by the author, which would then be compared to previous research. The point of view is an objective third-person. No opinion is allowed. Any claims must be backed up with research.

VIII. Conclusion

Students dread hearing that they are going to write an essay, but essays are one of the easiest and most relaxed types of writing they will learn. Mastering the essay will make research papers much easier, since they have the same basic structure. Many historical events can be better understood through essays written by people involved in those times. The continuation of essays in today’s times will allow future historians to understand how our new world of technology and information impacted us.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
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Definition of essay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

  • composition

attempt , try , endeavor , essay , strive mean to make an effort to accomplish an end.

attempt stresses the initiation or beginning of an effort.

try is often close to attempt but may stress effort or experiment made in the hope of testing or proving something.

endeavor heightens the implications of exertion and difficulty.

essay implies difficulty but also suggests tentative trying or experimenting.

strive implies great exertion against great difficulty and specifically suggests persistent effort.

Examples of essay in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'essay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Middle French essai , ultimately from Late Latin exagium act of weighing, from Latin ex- + agere to drive — more at agent

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Phrases Containing essay

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Cite this entry.

“Essay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/essay. Accessed 15 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

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Kids Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

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Writing Better University Essays/Defining key terms

Having decided what to include in the answer, there is another way to make sure the answer is focused: telling the reader what we are talking about. By defining what the key terms mean, we do two things. Firstly, we show that we know what we are writing about. Secondly, we avoid misunderstandings by settling on a single understanding of the key terms. It might be that your marker understands power in a Marxist way, and you want to approach the essay from a feminist point of view. By providing a brief definition, there will be no misunderstanding. Your marker may not agree with you, but that is not necessary to get good grades. A definition makes sure you and your readers talk about the same things. For example, you can define fruit salad as consisting of bananas, pineapples, and yellow apples (ideally you would have a reason for this, too). Having done so, your reader will not object when you later state that fruit salad lacks the vital bits of red.

In order to define the key terms, you first have to bluntly state what they are. Always include the key words included in the question. These have been identified as central concepts for you, and by excluding them, you’ll be very likely answering a different question from the one set. There are often other key terms you want to include, and it’s usually worth spending some time thinking about which ones are the key concept. This is time worth spending, because you can later use the concepts without giving any further qualifications or comments. For this reason you should also define the terms carefully. Having defined power in a particular way, for example, every time you use the term in the essay, it only means what you want it to be.

Providing the definition of the key terms also works as a signal to your marker that you know what you’re talking about. By defining power in a certain way, you demonstrate that you’re aware of other interpretations. In fact, it’ll often not be necessary to state what the other interpretations are, unless the distinction is a key aspect of the argument. Very often, you’ll use the work of somebody else to help you define the key terms. Make sure that you put references accordingly.

The following three paragraphs define the concepts social disadvantage, social mobility, and siblings. The definitions are taken from a range of sources, and referenced accordingly. In the context of another essay, these definitions may be too long or too short.

Depending on the length of your essay, you’ll have between 2 and maybe 5 key terms. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to think which terms are the central ones. Consider the following phrases as ways to define terms: X is understood as a process by which , X regards Y as , one view is that there is X so that Y , or X is commonly considered as .

Sources for Definitions [ edit | edit source ]

When writing your definition, there are a number of sources you can use to help you. Using a common-sense definition is hardly ever suitable. In many cases, a definition as found in a specialist dictionary will do. In other cases, you want something even more specialized, and consult your course material. Many introductory books define key terms, and then discuss them in more detail in the chapter. It’s important not just to simply copy a definition, but choose what is suitable for your needs. Bear in mind that every text, even a specialized dictionary, was written with a specific purpose in mind. What you need for your essay is likely to be a bit different.

Google and other internet search engines may be an easy way, but they are usually not suitable. Apart from the fact that your source may not be reliable, you’re likely to end up with a definition that is either too generic, or from a different area. A definition of power from a physics text may not be what we want in our discipline.

It’s often worth spending some time on the key terms. This is the case, because the way you set out this section will direct the remainder of the essay a great deal. Choosing a certain way to interpret a concept rather than another may be just as important as focusing on certain issues and not others in the main part of the essay. Despite its importance, the section providing the definitions should not be too long: focus on the concepts that are really central. These are usually the concepts that are recurring throughout the essay.

Next: Main part

essay terms defined

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10.6 Definition

Learning objectives.

  • Determine the purpose and structure of the definition essay.
  • Understand how to write a definition essay.

The Purpose of Definition in Writing

The purpose of a definition essay may seem self-explanatory: the purpose of the definition essay is to simply define something. But defining terms in writing is often more complicated than just consulting a dictionary. In fact, the way we define terms can have far-reaching consequences for individuals as well as collective groups.

Take, for example, a word like alcoholism . The way in which one defines alcoholism depends on its legal, moral, and medical contexts. Lawyers may define alcoholism in terms of its legality; parents may define alcoholism in terms of its morality; and doctors will define alcoholism in terms of symptoms and diagnostic criteria. Think also of terms that people tend to debate in our broader culture. How we define words, such as marriage and climate change , has enormous impact on policy decisions and even on daily decisions. Think about conversations couples may have in which words like commitment , respect , or love need clarification.

Defining terms within a relationship, or any other context, can at first be difficult, but once a definition is established between two people or a group of people, it is easier to have productive dialogues. Definitions, then, establish the way in which people communicate ideas. They set parameters for a given discourse, which is why they are so important.

When writing definition essays, avoid terms that are too simple, that lack complexity. Think in terms of concepts, such as hero , immigration , or loyalty , rather than physical objects. Definitions of concepts, rather than objects, are often fluid and contentious, making for a more effective definition essay.

Writing at Work

Definitions play a critical role in all workplace environments. Take the term sexual harassment , for example. Sexual harassment is broadly defined on the federal level, but each company may have additional criteria that define it further. Knowing how your workplace defines and treats all sexual harassment allegations is important. Think, too, about how your company defines lateness , productivity , or contributions .

On a separate sheet of paper, write about a time in your own life in which the definition of a word, or the lack of a definition, caused an argument. Your term could be something as simple as the category of an all-star in sports or how to define a good movie. Or it could be something with higher stakes and wider impact, such as a political argument. Explain how the conversation began, how the argument hinged on the definition of the word, and how the incident was finally resolved.

Collaboration

Please share with a classmate and compare your responses.

The Structure of a Definition Essay

The definition essay opens with a general discussion of the term to be defined. You then state as your thesis your definition of the term.

The rest of the essay should explain the rationale for your definition. Remember that a dictionary’s definition is limiting, and you should not rely strictly on the dictionary entry. Instead, consider the context in which you are using the word. Context identifies the circumstances, conditions, or setting in which something exists or occurs. Often words take on different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. For example, the ideal leader in a battlefield setting could likely be very different than a leader in an elementary school setting. If a context is missing from the essay, the essay may be too short or the main points could be confusing or misunderstood.

The remainder of the essay should explain different aspects of the term’s definition. For example, if you were defining a good leader in an elementary classroom setting, you might define such a leader according to personality traits: patience, consistency, and flexibility. Each attribute would be explained in its own paragraph.

For definition essays, try to think of concepts that you have a personal stake in. You are more likely to write a more engaging definition essay if you are writing about an idea that has personal value and importance.

It is a good idea to occasionally assess your role in the workplace. You can do this through the process of definition. Identify your role at work by defining not only the routine tasks but also those gray areas where your responsibilities might overlap with those of others. Coming up with a clear definition of roles and responsibilities can add value to your résumé and even increase productivity in the workplace.

On a separate sheet of paper, define each of the following items in your own terms. If you can, establish a context for your definition.

  • Consumer culture

Writing a Definition Essay

Choose a topic that will be complex enough to be discussed at length. Choosing a word or phrase of personal relevance often leads to a more interesting and engaging essay.

After you have chosen your word or phrase, start your essay with an introduction that establishes the relevancy of the term in the chosen specific context. Your thesis comes at the end of the introduction, and it should clearly state your definition of the term in the specific context. Establishing a functional context from the beginning will orient readers and minimize misunderstandings.

The body paragraphs should each be dedicated to explaining a different facet of your definition. Make sure to use clear examples and strong details to illustrate your points. Your concluding paragraph should pull together all the different elements of your definition to ultimately reinforce your thesis. See Chapter 15 “Readings: Examples of Essays” to read a sample definition essay.

Create a full definition essay from one of the items you already defined in Note 10.64 “Exercise 2” . Be sure to include an interesting introduction, a clear thesis, a well-explained context, distinct body paragraphs, and a conclusion that pulls everything together.

Key Takeaways

  • Definitions establish the way in which people communicate ideas. They set parameters for a given discourse.
  • Context affects the meaning and usage of words.
  • The thesis of a definition essay should clearly state the writer’s definition of the term in the specific context.
  • Body paragraphs should explain the various facets of the definition stated in the thesis.
  • The conclusion should pull all the elements of the definition together at the end and reinforce the thesis.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

What is an Essay?

10 May, 2020

11 minutes read

Author:  Tomas White

Well, beyond a jumble of words usually around 2,000 words or so - what is an essay, exactly? Whether you’re taking English, sociology, history, biology, art, or a speech class, it’s likely you’ll have to write an essay or two. So how is an essay different than a research paper or a review? Let’s find out!

What is an essay

Defining the Term – What is an Essay?

The essay is a written piece that is designed to present an idea, propose an argument, express the emotion or initiate debate. It is a tool that is used to present writer’s ideas in a non-fictional way. Multiple applications of this type of writing go way beyond, providing political manifestos and art criticism as well as personal observations and reflections of the author.

what is an essay

An essay can be as short as 500 words, it can also be 5000 words or more.  However, most essays fall somewhere around 1000 to 3000 words ; this word range provides the writer enough space to thoroughly develop an argument and work to convince the reader of the author’s perspective regarding a particular issue.  The topics of essays are boundless: they can range from the best form of government to the benefits of eating peppermint leaves daily. As a professional provider of custom writing, our service has helped thousands of customers to turn in essays in various forms and disciplines.

Origins of the Essay

Over the course of more than six centuries essays were used to question assumptions, argue trivial opinions and to initiate global discussions. Let’s have a closer look into historical progress and various applications of this literary phenomenon to find out exactly what it is.

Today’s modern word “essay” can trace its roots back to the French “essayer” which translates closely to mean “to attempt” .  This is an apt name for this writing form because the essay’s ultimate purpose is to attempt to convince the audience of something.  An essay’s topic can range broadly and include everything from the best of Shakespeare’s plays to the joys of April.

The essay comes in many shapes and sizes; it can focus on a personal experience or a purely academic exploration of a topic.  Essays are classified as a subjective writing form because while they include expository elements, they can rely on personal narratives to support the writer’s viewpoint.  The essay genre includes a diverse array of academic writings ranging from literary criticism to meditations on the natural world.  Most typically, the essay exists as a shorter writing form; essays are rarely the length of a novel.  However, several historic examples, such as John Locke’s seminal work “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” just shows that a well-organized essay can be as long as a novel.

The Essay in Literature

The essay enjoys a long and renowned history in literature.  They first began gaining in popularity in the early 16 th century, and their popularity has continued today both with original writers and ghost writers.  Many readers prefer this short form in which the writer seems to speak directly to the reader, presenting a particular claim and working to defend it through a variety of means.  Not sure if you’ve ever read a great essay? You wouldn’t believe how many pieces of literature are actually nothing less than essays, or evolved into more complex structures from the essay. Check out this list of literary favorites:

  • The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
  • Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag
  • High-Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now and Never by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  • Naked by David Sedaris
  • Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau

Pretty much as long as writers have had something to say, they’ve created essays to communicate their viewpoint on pretty much any topic you can think of!

Top essays in literature

The Essay in Academics

Not only are students required to read a variety of essays during their academic education, but they will likely be required to write several different kinds of essays throughout their scholastic career.  Don’t love to write?  Then consider working with a ghost essay writer !  While all essays require an introduction, body paragraphs in support of the argumentative thesis statement, and a conclusion, academic essays can take several different formats in the way they approach a topic.  Common essays required in high school, college, and post-graduate classes include:

Five paragraph essay

This is the most common type of a formal essay. The type of paper that students are usually exposed to when they first hear about the concept of the essay itself. It follows easy outline structure – an opening introduction paragraph; three body paragraphs to expand the thesis; and conclusion to sum it up.

Argumentative essay

These essays are commonly assigned to explore a controversial issue.  The goal is to identify the major positions on either side and work to support the side the writer agrees with while refuting the opposing side’s potential arguments.

Compare and Contrast essay

This essay compares two items, such as two poems, and works to identify similarities and differences, discussing the strength and weaknesses of each.  This essay can focus on more than just two items, however.  The point of this essay is to reveal new connections the reader may not have considered previously.

Definition essay

This essay has a sole purpose – defining a term or a concept in as much detail as possible. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, not quite. The most important part of the process is picking up the word. Before zooming it up under the microscope, make sure to choose something roomy so you can define it under multiple angles. The definition essay outline will reflect those angles and scopes.

Descriptive essay

Perhaps the most fun to write, this essay focuses on describing its subject using all five of the senses.  The writer aims to fully describe the topic; for example, a descriptive essay could aim to describe the ocean to someone who’s never seen it or the job of a teacher.  Descriptive essays rely heavily on detail and the paragraphs can be organized by sense.

Illustration essay

The purpose of this essay is to describe an idea, occasion or a concept with the help of clear and vocal examples. “Illustration” itself is handled in the body paragraphs section. Each of the statements, presented in the essay needs to be supported with several examples. Illustration essay helps the author to connect with his audience by breaking the barriers with real-life examples – clear and indisputable.

Informative Essay

Being one the basic essay types, the informative essay is as easy as it sounds from a technical standpoint. High school is where students usually encounter with informative essay first time. The purpose of this paper is to describe an idea, concept or any other abstract subject with the help of proper research and a generous amount of storytelling.

Narrative essay

This type of essay focuses on describing a certain event or experience, most often chronologically.  It could be a historic event or an ordinary day or month in a regular person’s life. Narrative essay proclaims a free approach to writing it, therefore it does not always require conventional attributes, like the outline. The narrative itself typically unfolds through a personal lens, and is thus considered to be a subjective form of writing.

Persuasive essay

The purpose of the persuasive essay is to provide the audience with a 360-view on the concept idea or certain topic – to persuade the reader to adopt a certain viewpoint. The viewpoints can range widely from why visiting the dentist is important to why dogs make the best pets to why blue is the best color.  Strong, persuasive language is a defining characteristic of this essay type.

Types of essays

The Essay in Art

Several other artistic mediums have adopted the essay as a means of communicating with their audience.  In the visual arts, such as painting or sculpting, the rough sketches of the final product are sometimes deemed essays.  Likewise, directors may opt to create a film essay which is similar to a documentary in that it offers a personal reflection on a relevant issue.  Finally, photographers often create photographic essays in which they use a series of photographs to tell a story, similar to a narrative or a descriptive essay.

Drawing the line – question answered

“What is an Essay?” is quite a polarizing question. On one hand, it can easily be answered in a couple of words. On the other, it is surely the most profound and self-established type of content there ever was. Going back through the history of the last five-six centuries helps us understand where did it come from and how it is being applied ever since.

If you must write an essay, follow these five important steps to works towards earning the “A” you want:

  • Understand and review the kind of essay you must write
  • Brainstorm your argument
  • Find research from reliable sources to support your perspective
  • Cite all sources parenthetically within the paper and on the Works Cited page
  • Follow all grammatical rules

Generally speaking, when you must write any type of essay, start sooner rather than later!  Don’t procrastinate – give yourself time to develop your perspective and work on crafting a unique and original approach to the topic.  Remember: it’s always a good idea to have another set of eyes (or three) look over your essay before handing in the final draft to your teacher or professor.  Don’t trust your fellow classmates?  Consider hiring an editor or a ghostwriter to help out!

If you are still unsure on whether you can cope with your task – you are in the right place to get help. HandMadeWriting is the perfect answer to the question “Who can write my essay?”

A life lesson in Romeo and Juliet taught by death

A life lesson in Romeo and Juliet taught by death

Due to human nature, we draw conclusions only when life gives us a lesson since the experience of others is not so effective and powerful. Therefore, when analyzing and sorting out common problems we face, we may trace a parallel with well-known book characters or real historical figures. Moreover, we often compare our situations with […]

Ethical Research Paper Topics

Ethical Research Paper Topics

Writing a research paper on ethics is not an easy task, especially if you do not possess excellent writing skills and do not like to contemplate controversial questions. But an ethics course is obligatory in all higher education institutions, and students have to look for a way out and be creative. When you find an […]

Art Research Paper Topics

Art Research Paper Topics

Students obtaining degrees in fine art and art & design programs most commonly need to write a paper on art topics. However, this subject is becoming more popular in educational institutions for expanding students’ horizons. Thus, both groups of receivers of education: those who are into arts and those who only get acquainted with art […]

Cambridge Dictionary

  • Cambridge Dictionary +Plus

Meaning of essay in English

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  • I want to finish off this essay before I go to bed .
  • His essay was full of spelling errors .
  • Have you given that essay in yet ?
  • Have you handed in your history essay yet ?
  • I'd like to discuss the first point in your essay.
  • boilerplate
  • composition
  • dissertation
  • essay question
  • peer review
  • go after someone
  • go all out idiom
  • go down swinging/fighting idiom
  • go for it idiom
  • go for someone
  • shoot the works idiom
  • smarten (someone/something) up
  • smarten up your act idiom
  • square the circle idiom
  • step on the gas idiom

essay | Intermediate English

Examples of essay, collocations with essay.

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Word of the Day

troubleshoot

to discover why something does not work effectively and help to improve it

Searching out and tracking down: talking about finding or discovering things

Searching out and tracking down: talking about finding or discovering things

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Definition Essay

Barbara P

Definition Essay - Writing Guide, Examples and Tips

14 min read

Published on: Oct 9, 2020

Last updated on: Jan 31, 2024

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Many students struggle with writing definition essays due to a lack of clarity and precision in their explanations.

This obstructs them from effectively conveying the essence of the terms or concepts they are tasked with defining. Consequently, the essays may lack coherence, leaving readers confused and preventing them from grasping the intended meaning.

But don’t worry!

In this guide, we will delve into effective techniques and step-by-step approaches to help students craft an engaging definition essay.

Continue reading to learn the correct formation of a definition essay. 

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What is a Definition Essay?

Just as the name suggests, a definition essay defines and explains a term or a concept. Unlike a narrative essay, the purpose of writing this essay is only to inform the readers.

Writing this essay type can be deceivingly tricky. Some terms, concepts, and objects have concrete definitions when explained. In contrast others are solely based on the writer’s understanding and point of view.

A definition essay requires a writer to use different approaches when discussing a term. These approaches are the following:

  • Denotation - It is when you provide a literal or academic definition of the term.
  • Connotation - It is when the writer provides an implied meaning or definition of the term.
  • Enumeration - For this approach, a list is employed to define a term or a concept.
  • Analogy - It is a technique in which something is defined by implementing a comparison.
  • Negation - It is when you define a term by stating what it is not.

A single or combination of approaches can be used in the essay. 

Definition Essay Types

There are several types of definition essays that you may be asked to write, depending on the purpose and scope of the assignment. 

In this section, we will discuss some of the most common types of definition essays.

Descriptive Definition Essay 

This type of essay provides a detailed description of a term or concept, emphasizing its key features and characteristics. 

The goal of a descriptive definition essay is to help readers understand the term or concept in a more profound way.

Stipulative Definition Essay 

In a stipulative definition essay, the writer provides a unique definition of a term or concept. This type of essay is often used in academic settings to define a term in a particular field of study. 

The goal of a stipulative definition essay is to provide a precise and clear definition that is specific to the context of the essay.

Analytical Definition Essay 

This compare and contrast essay type involves analyzing a term or concept in-depth. Breaking it down into its component parts, and examining how they relate to each other. 

The goal of an analytical definition essay is to provide a more nuanced and detailed understanding of the term or concept being discussed.

Persuasive Definition Essay 

A persuasive definition essay is an argumentative essay that aims to persuade readers to accept a particular definition of a term or concept.

The writer presents their argument for the definition and uses evidence and examples to support their position.

Explanatory Definition Essay 

An explanatory definition essay is a type of expository essay . It aims to explain a complex term or concept in a way that is easy to understand for the reader. 

The writer breaks down the term or concept into simpler parts and provides examples and analogies to help readers understand it better.

Extended Definition Essay 

An extended definition essay goes beyond the definition of a word or concept and provides a more in-depth analysis and explanation. 

The goal of an extended definition essay is to provide a comprehensive understanding of a term, concept, or idea. This includes its history, origins, and cultural significance. 

How to Write a Definition Essay?

Writing a definition essay is simple if you know the correct procedure. This essay, like all the other formal pieces of documents, requires substantial planning and effective execution.

The following are the steps involved in writing a definition essay effectively:

Instead of choosing a term that has a concrete definition available, choose a word that is complicated . Complex expressions have abstract concepts that require a writer to explore deeper. Moreover, make sure that different people perceive the term selected differently. 

Once you have a word to draft your definition essay for, read the dictionary. These academic definitions are important as you can use them to compare your understanding with the official concept.

Drafting a definition essay is about stating the dictionary meaning and your explanation of the concept. So the writer needs to have some information about the term.

In addition to this, when exploring the term, make sure to check the term’s origin. The history of the word can make you discuss it in a better way.

Coming up with an exciting title for your essay is important. The essay topic will be the first thing that your readers will witness, so it should be catchy.

Creatively draft an essay topic that reflects meaning. In addition to this, the usage of the term in the title should be correctly done. The readers should get an idea of what the essay is about and what to expect from the document.

Now that you have a topic in hand, it is time to gather some relevant information. A definition essay is more than a mere explanation of the term. It represents the writer’s perception of the chosen term and the topic.

So having only personal opinions will not be enough to defend your point. Deeply research and gather information by consulting credible sources.

The gathered information needs to be organized to be understandable. The raw data needs to be arranged to give a structure to the content.

Here's a generic outline for a definition essay:

Are you searching for an in-depth guide on crafting a well-structured definition essay?Check out this definition essay outline blog!

6. Write the First Draft

Drafting each section correctly is a daunting task. Understanding what or what not to include in these sections requires a writer to choose wisely.

The start of your essay matters a lot. If it is on point and attractive, the readers will want to read the text. As the first part of the essay is the introduction , it is considered the first impression of your essay.

To write your definition essay introduction effectively, include the following information:

  • Start your essay with a catchy hook statement that is related to the topic and the term chosen.
  • State the generally known definition of the term. If the word chosen has multiple interpretations, select the most common one.
  • Provide background information precisely. Determine the origin of the term and other relevant information.
  • Shed light on the other unconventional concepts and definitions related to the term.
  • Decide on the side or stance you want to pick in your essay and develop a thesis statement .

After briefly introducing the topic, fully explain the concept in the body section . Provide all the details and evidence that will support the thesis statement. To draft this section professionally, add the following information:

  • A detailed explanation of the history of the term.
  • Analysis of the dictionary meaning and usage of the term.
  • A comparison and reflection of personal understanding and the researched data on the concept.

Once all the details are shared, give closure to your discussion. The last paragraph of the definition essay is the conclusion . The writer provides insight into the topic as a conclusion.

The concluding paragraphs include the following material:

  • Summary of the important points.
  • Restated thesis statement.
  • A final verdict on the topic.

7. Proofread and Edit

Although the writing process ends with the concluding paragraph, there is an additional step. It is important to proofread the essay once you are done writing. Proofread and revise your document a couple of times to make sure everything is perfect.

Before submitting your assignment, make edits, and fix all mistakes and errors.

If you want to learn more about how to write a definition essay, here is a video guide for you!

Definition Essay Structure 

The structure of a definition essay is similar to that of any other academic essay. It should consist of an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. 

However, the focus of a definition essay is on defining and explaining a particular term or concept. 

In this section, we will discuss the structure of a definition essay in detail.

Introduction 

Get the idea of writing an introduction for a definition essay with this example:

Body Paragraphs

Here is an example of how to craft your definition essay body paragraph:

Types of the Term/Concept 

If applicable, the writer may want to include a section that discusses the different types or categories of the term or concept being defined. 

This section should explain the similarities and differences between the types, using examples and anecdotes to illustrate the points.

Examples of the Term/Concept in Action 

The writer should also include real-life examples of the term or concept being defined in action. 

This will help the reader better understand the term or concept in context and how it is used in everyday life.

Conclusion 

This example will help you writing a conclusion fo you essay:

Definition Essay Examples

It is important to go through some examples and samples before writing an essay. This is to understand the writing process and structure of the assigned task well.

Following are some examples of definition essays to give our students a better idea of the concept. 

Understanding the Definition Essay

Definition Essay Example

Definition Essay About Friendship

Definition Essay About Love

Family Definition Essay

Success Definition Essay

Beauty Definition Essay

Definition Essay Topics

Selecting the right topic is challenging for other essay types. However, picking a suitable theme for a definition essay is equally tricky yet important. Pick an interesting subject to ensure maximum readership.

If you are facing writer’s block, here is a list of some great definition essay topics for your help. Choose from the list below and draft a compelling essay.

  • Authenticity
  • Sustainability
  • Mindfulness

Here are some more extended definition essay topics:

  • Social media addiction
  • Ethical implications of gene editing
  • Personalized learning in the digital age
  • Ecosystem services
  • Cultural assimilation versus cultural preservation
  • Sustainable fashion
  • Gender equality in the workplace
  • Financial literacy and its impact on personal finance
  • Ethical considerations in artificial intelligence
  • Welfare state and social safety nets

Need more topics? Check out this definition essay topics blog!

Definition Essay Writing Tips

Knowing the correct writing procedure is not enough if you are not aware of the essay’s small technicalities. To help students write a definition essay effortlessly, expert writers of CollegeEssay.org have gathered some simple tips.

These easy tips will make your assignment writing phase easy.

  • Choose an exciting yet informative topic for your essay.
  • When selecting the word, concept, or term for your essay, make sure you have the knowledge.
  • When consulting a dictionary for the definition, provide proper referencing as there are many choices available.
  • To make the essay informative and credible, always provide the origin and history of the term.
  • Highlight different meanings and interpretations of the term.
  • Discuss the transitions and evolution in the meaning of the term in any.
  • Provide your perspective and point of view on the chosen term.

Following these tips will guarantee you better grades in your academics.

By following the step-by-step approach explained in this guide, you will acquire the skills to craft an outstanding essay. 

Struggling with the thought, " write my college essay for m e"? Look no further.

Our dedicated definition essay writing service is here to craft the perfect essay that meets your academic needs.

For an extra edge, explore our AI essay writer , a tool designed to refine your essays to perfection. 

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

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  • How to Write a Definition Essay

A definition essay can be deceivingly difficult to write. This type of paper requires you to write a personal yet academic definition of one specific word. The definition must be thorough and lengthy. It is essential that you choose a word that will give you plenty to write about, and there are a few standard tactics you can use to elaborate on the term. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when writing a definition essay.

Part 1 of 3: Choosing the Right Word

1: choose an abstract word with a complex meaning. [1].

A simple word that refers to a concrete word will not give you much to write about, but a complex word that refers to an abstract concept provides more material to explore.

  • Typically, nouns that refer to a person, place, or thing are too simple for a definition essay. Nouns that refer to an idea work better, however, as do most adjectives.
  • For example, the word “house” is fairly simple and an essay written around it may be dull. By switching to something slightly more abstract like “home,” however, you can play around with the definition more. A “home” is a concept, and there are many elements involved in the creation of a “home.” In comparison, a “house” is merely a structure.

2: Make sure that the word is disputable.

Aside from being complex, the word should also refer to something that can mean different things to different people.

  • A definition essay is somewhat subjective by nature since it requires you to analyze and define a word from your own perspective. If the answer you come up with after analyzing a word is the same answer anyone else would come up with, your essay may appear to lack depth.

3: Choose a word you have some familiarity with.

Dictionary definitions can only tell you so much. Since you need to elaborate on the word you choose to define, you will need to have your own base of knowledge or experience with the concept you choose.

  • For instance, if you have never heard the term “pedantic,” your understanding of the word will be limited. You can introduce yourself to the word for your essay, but without previous understanding of the concept, you will not know if the definition you describe is truly fitting.

4: Read the dictionary definition.

While you will not be relying completely on the dictionary definition for your essay, familiarizing yourself with the official definition will allow you to compare your own understanding of the concept with the simplest, most academic explanation of it.

  • As an example, one definition of “friend” is “a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.” [2] Your own ideas or beliefs about what a “friend” really is likely include much more information, but this basic definition can present you with a good starting point in forming your own.

5:  Research the word’s origins.

Look up your chosen word in the Oxford English Dictionary or in another etymology dictionary. [3]

  • These sources can tell you the history behind a word, which can provide further insight on a general definition as well as information about how a word came to mean what it means today.

Part 2 of 3: Potential Elements of an Effective Definition

1: write an analysis. [4].

Separate a word into various parts. Analyze and define each part in its own paragraph.

  • You can separate “return” into “re-” and “turn.” The word “friendship” can be separated into “friend” and “ship.”
  • In order to analyze each portion of a word, you will still need to use additional defining tactics like negation and classification.
  • Note that this tactic only works for words that contain multiple parts. The word “love,” for instance, cannot be broken down any further. If defining “platonic love,” though, you could define both “platonic” and “love” separately within your essay.

2:  Classify the term.

Specify what classes and parts of speech a word belongs to according to a standard dictionary definition.

  • While this information is very basic and dry, it can provide helpful context about the way that a given word is used.

3: Compare an unfamiliar term to something familiar.

An unfamiliar or uncommon concept can be explained using concepts that are more accessible to the average person.

  • Many people have never heard of the term “confrere,” for instance. One basic definition is “a fellow member of a profession, fraternity, etc.” As such, you could compare “confrere” with “colleague,” which is a similar yet more familiar concept. [5]

4:  Provide traditional details about the term.

Explain any physical characteristics or traditional thoughts used to describe your term of choice.

  • The term “home” is often visualized physically as a house or apartment. In more abstract terms, “home” is traditionally thought to be a warm, cozy, and safe environment. You can include all of these features in a definition essay on “home.”

5: Use examples to illustrate the meaning.

People often relate to stories and vivid images, so using a fitting story or image that relates to the term can be used in clarifying an abstract, formless concept.

  • In a definition essay about “kindness,” for example, you could write about an act of kindness you recently witnessed. Someone who mows the lawn of an elderly neighbor is a valid example, just as someone who gave you an encouraging word when you were feeling down might be.

6: Use negation to explain what the term does not mean.

If a term is often misused or misunderstood, mentioning what it is not is an effective way to bring the concept into focus.

  • A common example would be the term “courage.” The term is often associated with a lack of fear, but many will argue that “courage” is more accurately described as acting in spite of fear.

7: Provide background information.

This is when your research about the etymology of a word will come in handy. Explain where the term originated and how it came to mean what it currently means.

Part 3 of 3: Definition Essay Structure

1: introduce the standard definition..

You need to clearly state what your word is along with its traditional or dictionary definition in your introductory paragraph.

  • By opening with the dictionary definition of your term, you create context and a basic level of knowledge about the word. This will allow you to introduce and elaborate on your own definition.
  • This is especially significant when the traditional definition of your term varies from your own definition in notable ways.

2: Define the term in your own words in your thesis.

Your actual thesis statement should define the term in your own words.

  • Keep the definition in your thesis brief and basic. You will elaborate on it more in the body of your paper.
  • Avoid using passive phrases involving the word “is” when defining your term. The phrases “is where” and “is when” are especially clunky. [6]
  • Do not repeat part of the defined term in your definition.

3:  Separate different parts of the definition into separate paragraphs.

Each tactic or method used to define your term should be explored in a separate paragraph.

  • Note that you do not need to use all the possible methods of defining a term in your essay. You should use a variety of different methods in order to create a full, well-rounded picture of the term, but some tactics will work great with some terms but not with others.

4: Conclude with a summary of your main points.

Briefly summarize your main points around the start of your concluding paragraph.

  • This summary does not need to be elaborate. Usually, looking at the topic sentence of each body paragraph is a good way to form a simple list of your main points.
  • You can also draw the essay to a close by referring to phrases or images evoked in your introduction.

5: Mention how the definition has affected you, if desired.

If the term you define plays a part in your own life and experiences, your final concluding remarks are a good place to briefly mention the role it plays.

  • Relate your experience with the term to the definition you created for it in your thesis. Avoid sharing experiences that relate to the term but contradict everything you wrote in your essay.

Sources and Citations

  • http://www.roanestate.edu/owl/Definition.html
  • http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/friend?s=t
  • http://www.etymonline.com/
  • http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/definition.html
  • http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/confrere?s=t
  • http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/composition/definition.htm
  • How to Write a Definition Essay. Provided by : WikiHow. Located at : http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Definition-Essay . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
  • Table of Contents

Instructor Resources (Access Requires Login)

  • Overview of Instructor Resources

An Overview of the Writing Process

  • Introduction to the Writing Process
  • Introduction to Writing
  • Your Role as a Learner
  • What is an Essay?
  • Reading to Write
  • Defining the Writing Process
  • Videos: Prewriting Techniques
  • Thesis Statements
  • Organizing an Essay
  • Creating Paragraphs
  • Conclusions
  • Editing and Proofreading
  • Matters of Grammar, Mechanics, and Style
  • Peer Review Checklist
  • Comparative Chart of Writing Strategies

Using Sources

  • Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Formatting the Works Cited Page (MLA)
  • Citing Paraphrases and Summaries (APA)
  • APA Citation Style, 6th edition: General Style Guidelines

Definition Essay

  • Definitional Argument Essay
  • Critical Thinking
  • Video: Thesis Explained
  • Effective Thesis Statements
  • Student Sample: Definition Essay

Narrative Essay

  • Introduction to Narrative Essay
  • Student Sample: Narrative Essay
  • "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell
  • "Sixty-nine Cents" by Gary Shteyngart
  • Video: The Danger of a Single Story
  • How to Write an Annotation
  • How to Write a Summary
  • Writing for Success: Narration

Illustration/Example Essay

  • Introduction to Illustration/Example Essay
  • "She's Your Basic L.O.L. in N.A.D" by Perri Klass
  • "April & Paris" by David Sedaris
  • Writing for Success: Illustration/Example
  • Student Sample: Illustration/Example Essay

Compare/Contrast Essay

  • Introduction to Compare/Contrast Essay
  • "Disability" by Nancy Mairs
  • "Friending, Ancient or Otherwise" by Alex Wright
  • "A South African Storm" by Allison Howard
  • Writing for Success: Compare/Contrast
  • Student Sample: Compare/Contrast Essay

Cause-and-Effect Essay

  • Introduction to Cause-and-Effect Essay
  • "Cultural Baggage" by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • "Women in Science" by K.C. Cole
  • Writing for Success: Cause and Effect
  • Student Sample: Cause-and-Effect Essay

Argument Essay

  • Introduction to Argument Essay
  • Rogerian Argument
  • "The Case Against Torture," by Alisa Soloman
  • "The Case for Torture" by Michael Levin
  • How to Write a Summary by Paraphrasing Source Material
  • Writing for Success: Argument
  • Student Sample: Argument Essay
  • Grammar/Mechanics Mini-lessons
  • Mini-lesson: Subjects and Verbs, Irregular Verbs, Subject Verb Agreement
  • Mini-lesson: Sentence Types
  • Mini-lesson: Fragments I
  • Mini-lesson: Run-ons and Comma Splices I
  • Mini-lesson: Comma Usage
  • Mini-lesson: Parallelism
  • Mini-lesson: The Apostrophe
  • Mini-lesson: Capital Letters
  • Grammar Practice - Interactive Quizzes
  • De Copia - Demonstration of the Variety of Language
  • Style Exercise: Voice

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What is climate change mitigation and why is it urgent?

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What is climate change mitigation and why is it urgent?

  • Climate change mitigation involves actions to reduce or prevent greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
  • Mitigation efforts include transitioning to renewable energy sources, enhancing energy efficiency, adopting regenerative agricultural practices and protecting and restoring forests and critical ecosystems.
  • Effective mitigation requires a whole-of-society approach and structural transformations to reduce emissions and limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • International cooperation, for example through the Paris Agreement, is crucial in guiding and achieving global and national mitigation goals.
  • Mitigation efforts face challenges such as the world's deep-rooted dependency on fossil fuels, the increased demand for new mineral resources and the difficulties in revamping our food systems.
  • These challenges also offer opportunities to improve resilience and contribute to sustainable development.

What is climate change mitigation?

Climate change mitigation refers to any action taken by governments, businesses or people to reduce or prevent greenhouse gases, or to enhance carbon sinks that remove them from the atmosphere. These gases trap heat from the sun in our planet’s atmosphere, keeping it warm. 

Since the industrial era began, human activities have led to the release of dangerous levels of greenhouse gases, causing global warming and climate change. However, despite unequivocal research about the impact of our activities on the planet’s climate and growing awareness of the severe danger climate change poses to our societies, greenhouse gas emissions keep rising. If we can slow down the rise in greenhouse gases, we can slow down the pace of climate change and avoid its worst consequences.

Reducing greenhouse gases can be achieved by:

  • Shifting away from fossil fuels : Fossil fuels are the biggest source of greenhouse gases, so transitioning to modern renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal power, and advancing sustainable modes of transportation, is crucial.
  • Improving energy efficiency : Using less energy overall – in buildings, industries, public and private spaces, energy generation and transmission, and transportation – helps reduce emissions. This can be achieved by using thermal comfort standards, better insulation and energy efficient appliances, and by improving building design, energy transmission systems and vehicles.
  • Changing agricultural practices : Certain farming methods release high amounts of methane and nitrous oxide, which are potent greenhouse gases. Regenerative agricultural practices – including enhancing soil health, reducing livestock-related emissions, direct seeding techniques and using cover crops – support mitigation, improve resilience and decrease the cost burden on farmers.
  • The sustainable management and conservation of forests : Forests act as carbon sinks , absorbing carbon dioxide and reducing the overall concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Measures to reduce deforestation and forest degradation are key for climate mitigation and generate multiple additional benefits such as biodiversity conservation and improved water cycles.
  • Restoring and conserving critical ecosystems : In addition to forests, ecosystems such as wetlands, peatlands, and grasslands, as well as coastal biomes such as mangrove forests, also contribute significantly to carbon sequestration, while supporting biodiversity and enhancing climate resilience.
  • Creating a supportive environment : Investments, policies and regulations that encourage emission reductions, such as incentives, carbon pricing and limits on emissions from key sectors are crucial to driving climate change mitigation.

Photo: Stephane Bellerose/UNDP Mauritius

Photo: Stephane Bellerose/UNDP Mauritius

Photo: La Incre and Lizeth Jurado/PROAmazonia

Photo: La Incre and Lizeth Jurado/PROAmazonia

What is the 1.5°C goal and why do we need to stick to it?

In 2015, 196 Parties to the UN Climate Convention in Paris adopted the Paris Agreement , a landmark international treaty, aimed at curbing global warming and addressing the effects of climate change. Its core ambition is to cap the rise in global average temperatures to well below 2°C above levels observed prior to the industrial era, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

The 1.5°C goal is extremely important, especially for vulnerable communities already experiencing severe climate change impacts. Limiting warming below 1.5°C will translate into less extreme weather events and sea level rise, less stress on food production and water access, less biodiversity and ecosystem loss, and a lower chance of irreversible climate consequences.

To limit global warming to the critical threshold of 1.5°C, it is imperative for the world to undertake significant mitigation action. This requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent before 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century.

What are the policy instruments that countries can use to drive mitigation?

Everyone has a role to play in climate change mitigation, from individuals adopting sustainable habits and advocating for change to governments implementing regulations, providing incentives and facilitating investments. The private sector, particularly those businesses and companies responsible for causing high emissions, should take a leading role in innovating, funding and driving climate change mitigation solutions. 

International collaboration and technology transfer is also crucial given the global nature and size of the challenge. As the main platform for international cooperation on climate action, the Paris Agreement has set forth a series of responsibilities and policy tools for its signatories. One of the primary instruments for achieving the goals of the treaty is Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) . These are the national climate pledges that each Party is required to develop and update every five years. NDCs articulate how each country will contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhance climate resilience.   While NDCs include short- to medium-term targets, long-term low emission development strategies (LT-LEDS) are policy tools under the Paris Agreement through which countries must show how they plan to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century. These strategies define a long-term vision that gives coherence and direction to shorter-term national climate targets.

Photo: Mucyo Serge/UNDP Rwanda

Photo: Mucyo Serge/UNDP Rwanda

Photo: William Seal/UNDP Sudan

Photo: William Seal/UNDP Sudan

At the same time, the call for climate change mitigation has evolved into a call for reparative action, where high-income countries are urged to rectify past and ongoing contributions to the climate crisis. This approach reflects the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which advocates for climate justice, recognizing the unequal historical responsibility for the climate crisis, emphasizing that wealthier countries, having profited from high-emission activities, bear a greater obligation to lead in mitigating these impacts. This includes not only reducing their own emissions, but also supporting vulnerable countries in their transition to low-emission development pathways.

Another critical aspect is ensuring a just transition for workers and communities that depend on the fossil fuel industry and its many connected industries. This process must prioritize social equity and create alternative employment opportunities as part of the shift towards renewable energy and more sustainable practices.

For emerging economies, innovation and advancements in technology have now demonstrated that robust economic growth can be achieved with clean, sustainable energy sources. By integrating renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind and geothermal power into their growth strategies, these economies can reduce their emissions, enhance energy security and create new economic opportunities and jobs. This shift not only contributes to global mitigation efforts but also sets a precedent for sustainable development.

What are some of the challenges slowing down climate change mitigation efforts?

Mitigating climate change is fraught with complexities, including the global economy's deep-rooted dependency on fossil fuels and the accompanying challenge of eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. This reliance – and the vested interests that have a stake in maintaining it – presents a significant barrier to transitioning to sustainable energy sources.

The shift towards decarbonization and renewable energy is driving increased demand for critical minerals such as copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt, and rare earth metals. Since new mining projects can take up to 15 years to yield output, mineral supply chains could become a bottleneck for decarbonization efforts. In addition, these minerals are predominantly found in a few, mostly low-income countries, which could heighten supply chain vulnerabilities and geopolitical tensions.

Furthermore, due to the significant demand for these minerals and the urgency of the energy transition, the scaled-up investment in the sector has the potential to exacerbate environmental degradation, economic and governance risks, and social inequalities, affecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and workers. Addressing these concerns necessitates implementing social and environmental safeguards, embracing circular economy principles, and establishing and enforcing responsible policies and regulations .

Agriculture is currently the largest driver of deforestation worldwide. A transformation in our food systems to reverse the impact that agriculture has on forests and biodiversity is undoubtedly a complex challenge. But it is also an important opportunity. The latest IPCC report highlights that adaptation and mitigation options related to land, water and food offer the greatest potential in responding to the climate crisis. Shifting to regenerative agricultural practices will not only ensure a healthy, fair and stable food supply for the world’s population, but also help to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Photo: UNDP India

Photo: UNDP India

Photo: Nino Zedginidze/UNDP Georgia

Photo: Nino Zedginidze/UNDP Georgia

What are some examples of climate change mitigation?

In Mauritius , UNDP, with funding from the Green Climate Fund, has supported the government to install battery energy storage capacity that has enabled 50 MW of intermittent renewable energy to be connected to the grid, helping to avoid 81,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. 

In Indonesia , UNDP has been working with the government for over a decade to support sustainable palm oil production. In 2019, the country adopted a National Action Plan on Sustainable Palm Oil, which was collaboratively developed by government, industry and civil society representatives. The plan increased the adoption of practices to minimize the adverse social and environmental effects of palm oil production and to protect forests. Since 2015, 37 million tonnes of direct greenhouse gas emissions have been avoided and 824,000 hectares of land with high conservation value have been protected.

In Moldova and Paraguay , UNDP has helped set up Green City Labs that are helping build more sustainable cities. This is achieved by implementing urban land use and mobility planning, prioritizing energy efficiency in residential buildings, introducing low-carbon public transport, implementing resource-efficient waste management, and switching to renewable energy sources. 

UNDP has supported the governments of Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Indonesia to implement results-based payments through the REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries) framework. These include payments for environmental services and community forest management programmes that channel international climate finance resources to local actors on the ground, specifically forest communities and Indigenous Peoples. 

UNDP is also supporting small island developing states like the Comoros to invest in renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure. Through the Africa Minigrids Program , solar minigrids will be installed in two priority communities, Grand Comore and Moheli, providing energy access through distributed renewable energy solutions to those hardest to reach.

And in South Africa , a UNDP initative to boost energy efficiency awareness among the general population and improve labelling standards has taken over commercial shopping malls.

What is climate change mitigation and why is it urgent?

What is UNDP’s role in supporting climate change mitigation?

UNDP aims to assist countries with their climate change mitigation efforts, guiding them towards sustainable, low-carbon and climate-resilient development. This support is in line with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those related to affordable and clean energy (SDG7), sustainable cities and communities (SDG11), and climate action (SDG13). Specifically, UNDP’s offer of support includes developing and improving legislation and policy, standards and regulations, capacity building, knowledge dissemination, and financial mobilization for countries to pilot and scale-up mitigation solutions such as renewable energy projects, energy efficiency initiatives and sustainable land-use practices. 

With financial support from the Global Environment Facility and the Green Climate Fund, UNDP has an active portfolio of 94 climate change mitigation projects in 69 countries. These initiatives are not only aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also at contributing to sustainable and resilient development pathways.

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How to Define ‘Antisemitism’ Is a Subject of Bitter Debate.

Activists, university officials and political leaders are deeply divided over what, precisely, constitutes antisemitism.

essay terms defined

By Vimal Patel

  • May 8, 2024

Many donors, politicians and Jewish students have pressured their colleges to confront antisemitism more forcefully. But one challenge can make the whole exercise feel like quicksilver.

There’s no consensus about what, precisely, constitutes antisemitism.

University administrators and federal bureaucrats alike have considered one contentious definition that has gained traction in recent years, put forward by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The definition itself is vague and uncontroversial, stating that antisemitism is a “certain perception of Jews that may be expressed as hatred” toward them. But the I.H.R.A. also includes with the definition a series of examples that alarm many supporters of free expression. They include holding Israel to a “double standard” and claiming Israel’s existence is a “racist endeavor.”

Supporters of the alliance’s definition say that it helps press colleges to stop tolerating behavior against Jews that would be unacceptable if it were directed at racial minority groups or L.G.B.T.Q. students.

But supporters of the Palestinian cause say those examples conflate antisemitism with anti-Zionism and are intended to protect Israel from criticism.

Debates over how to define antisemitism have been a flashpoint on several of the university task forces that have been created in response to student protests over the Israel-Hamas war.

At Harvard and Stanford, task force members have faced harsh criticism for not supporting the I.H.R.A. definition; a co-leader of the Stanford task force resigned , in part over that conflict.

A similar committee at Columbia University has avoided settling on a definition of antisemitism — a decision that has also led to criticism .

The Trump administration gave supporters of the I.H.R.A. definition a major boost in 2018 by issuing a sweeping executive order that instructed all agencies to consider the I.H.R.A. definition when examining civil rights complaints.

Political support for that definition gained further momentum this month , when the House overwhelmingly passed the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which would mandate that the Education Department consider the I.H.R.A. definition in civil rights cases. The bill would enshrine Mr. Trump’s executive order into federal law.

“Today, university leaders tend to disregard the executive order because it was issued by the prior administration,” said Kenneth Marcus, Mr. Trump’s civil rights chief, in an email, adding, “If this bill is passed, college administrators will need to take antisemitism seriously even when it is disguised as anti-Israel activism.”

The definition has been invoked in debates over whether to cancel controversial speakers, events and panels on the ground that they are antisemitic.

Mr. Trump’s executive order remains in effect, and the Biden administration is considering issuing a regulation based on it.

Vimal Patel writes about higher education with a focus on speech and campus culture. More about Vimal Patel

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California's $12 billion Medicaid experiment stretches the definition of health care

Angela Hart

essay terms defined

Alondra Mercado, a community health worker with the Central California Asthma Collaborative, helps provide services through an ambitious California Medicaid initiative. On a recent morning in March, she visited a family in Turlock to teach a mother how to control in-home asthma triggers that cause flare-ups in her young son. Angela Hart/KFF Health News hide caption

Alondra Mercado, a community health worker with the Central California Asthma Collaborative, helps provide services through an ambitious California Medicaid initiative. On a recent morning in March, she visited a family in Turlock to teach a mother how to control in-home asthma triggers that cause flare-ups in her young son.

TURLOCK, Calif. — For much of his young life, Jorge Sanchez regularly gasped for air, at times coughing so violently that he'd almost throw up. His mother whisked him to the emergency room late at night and slept with him to make sure he didn't stop breathing.

"He's had these problems since he was born, and I couldn't figure out what was triggering his asthma," Fabiola Sandoval said of her son, Jorge, now 4. "It's so hard when your child is hurting. I was willing to try anything."

In January, community health workers visited Sandoval's home in Turlock, a city in California's Central Valley where dust from fruit and nut orchards billows through the air. They scoured Sandoval's home for hazards and explained that harsh cleaning products, air fresheners, and airborne dust and pesticides can trigger an asthma attack.

The team also provided Sandoval with air purifiers, a special vacuum cleaner that can suck dust out of the air, hypoallergenic mattress covers, and a humidity sensor — goods that retail for hundreds of dollars. Within a few months, Jorge was breathing easier and was able to run and play outside.

The in-home consultation and supplies were paid for by Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid health insurance program for low-income residents.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is spearheading an ambitious $12 billion experiment to transform Medi-Cal into both a health insurer and a social services provider, one that relies not only on doctors and nurses, but also community health workers and nonprofit groups that offer dozens of services, including delivering healthy meals and helping homeless people pay for housing .

She has Medicare and Medicaid. So why should it take 18 months to get a wheelchair?

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She has medicare and medicaid. so why should it take 18 months to get a wheelchair.

Should Medicaid pay to help someone find a home? California is trying it

Should Medicaid pay to help someone find a home? California is trying it

These groups are redefining health care in California as they compete with businesses for a share of the money, and become a new arm of the sprawling Medi-Cal bureaucracy that serves nearly 15 million low-income residents on an annual budget of $158 billion .

But worker shortages, negotiations with health insurance companies, and complex billing and technology systems have hamstrung the community groups' ability to deliver the new services: Now into the third year of the ambitious five-year experiment, only a small fraction of eligible patients have received benefits.

"This is still so new, and everyone is just overwhelmed at this point, so it's slow-going," said Kevin Hamilton, a senior director at the Central California Asthma Collaborative.

essay terms defined

Fabiola Sandoval's son, Jorge Sanchez, got a relief from his asthma thanks to Medi-Cal's new funding for social services. Angela Hart/KFF Health News hide caption

The collaborative has served about 3,650 patients, including Sandoval's son Jorge, in eight counties since early 2022, he said. It has years of experience with Medi-Cal patients in the Central Valley and has received about $1.5 million of the new initiative's money.

By contrast, CalOptima Health, Orange County's primary Medi-Cal insurer, is new to offering asthma benefits and has signed up 58 patients so far.

"Asthma services are so difficult to get going" because the nonprofit infrastructure for these services is virtually nonexistent, said Kelly Bruno-Nelson, CalOptima's executive director for Medi-Cal. "We need more community-based organizations on board because they're the ones who can serve a population that nobody wants to deal with."

Meet basic needs, reduce health care costs down the line

Newsom, a Democrat in his second term, says his signature health care initiative, known as CalAIM , seeks to reduce the cost of caring for the state's sickest and most vulnerable patients, including homeless Californians, foster children, former inmates, and people battling addiction disorders.

In addition to in-home asthma remediation, CalAIM offers 13 broad categories of social services, plus a benefit connecting eligible patients with one-on-one care managers to help them obtain anything they need to get healthier, from grocery shopping to finding a job.

The goal, Newsom says, is to keep people healthier and avoid costly care such as emergency room visits, ultimately saving taxpayer money.

The 25 managed-care insurance companies participating in Medi-Cal can choose which services they offer, and contract with community groups to provide them. Insurers have hammered out about 4,300 large and small contracts with nonprofits and businesses.

So far, about 103,000 Medi-Cal patients have received CalAIM services and roughly 160,000 have been assigned personal care managers, according to state data , a sliver of the hundreds of thousands of patients who likely qualify.

"We're all new to health care" and learning to navigate the bureaucracy "is such a foreign concept," said Helena Lopez, executive director of A Greater Hope , a nonprofit organization providing social services in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, such as handing out baseball cleats to children to help them be active.

essay terms defined

Fabiola Sandoval (left) has struggled to help her son, Jorge Sanchez, control his asthma since he was an infant. Alondra Mercado (right), a community health worker, secured several items for her including air filters, cleaning products, pillow and mattress covers, and a specialized vacuum that can suck dust out of the air. These items were covered by California's Medicaid. Angela Hart/KFF Health News hide caption

Fabiola Sandoval (left) has struggled to help her son, Jorge Sanchez, control his asthma since he was an infant. Alondra Mercado (right), a community health worker, secured several items for her including air filters, cleaning products, pillow and mattress covers, and a specialized vacuum that can suck dust out of the air. These items were covered by California's Medicaid.

Small nonprofits, big start-up costs to get paid by Medicaid

Tiffany Sickler runs Koinonia Family Services , which offers California foster children mental health and other types of care, and even helped a patient pay off parking tickets. But the program is struggling on a shoestring budget.

"If you want to do this, you have to learn all these new systems," for getting paid through CalAIM, she said. "It's been a huge learning curve, and very time-consuming and frustrating, especially without adequate funding."

Brandon Richards, a Newsom spokesperson, defended CalAIM, saying that it was "on the cutting edge of health care" and that the state was working to increase "awareness of these new services and support."

For nonprofits and businesses, CalAIM is a money-making opportunity — one that top state health officials hope to make permanent. Health insurers, which receive hefty payments from the state to serve more people and offer new services, share a portion with service providers.

In some places, community groups are competing with national corporations for the new funding, such as Mom's Meals, an Iowa-based company that delivers prepared meals across the United States.

Mom's Meals has an advantage over neighborhood nonprofit groups because it has long served seniors on Medicare and was able to immediately start offering the CalAIM benefit of home-delivered meals for patients with chronic diseases. But even Mom's Meals isn't reaching everyone who qualifies because doctors and patients don't always know it's an option, said Catherine Macpherson, the company's chief nutrition officer.

"Utilization is not as high as it should be yet," she said. "But we were well positioned because we already had departments to do billing and contracting with health care."

Middleman companies also have their eye on the billions of CalAIM dollars and are popping up to assist small organizations go up against established ones like Mom's Meals. For instance, the New York-based Nonprofit Finance Fund is advising homeless service providers how to get more contracts and expand benefits.

Full Circle Health Network , with 70 member organizations, is helping smaller nonprofit groups develop and deliver services primarily for families and foster children. Full Circle has signed a deal with Kaiser Permanente, allowing the health care giant to access its network of community groups.

"We're allowing organizations to launch these benefits much faster than they've been able to do and to reach more vulnerable people," said Camille Schraeder, chief executive of Full Circle. "Many of these are grassroots organizations that have the trust and expertise on the ground, but they're new to health care."

One of the biggest challenges community groups face is hiring workers, who are key to finding eligible patients and persuading them to participate.

Kathryn Phillips, a workforce expert at the California Health Care Foundation, said there isn't enough seed money for community groups to hire workers and pay for new technology platforms. "They bring the trust that is needed, the cultural competency, the diversity of languages," she said. "But there needs to be more funding and reimbursement to build this workforce."

Health insurers say they are trying to increase the workforce. For instance, L.A. Care Health Plan, the largest Medi-Cal insurer in California, has given $66 million to community organizations for hiring and other CalAIM needs, said Sameer Amin, the group's chief medical officer.

"They don't have the staffing to do all this stuff, so we're helping with that all while teaching them how to build up their health care infrastructure," he said. "Everyone wants a win, but this isn't going to be successful overnight."

In the Central Valley, Jorge Sanchez is one of the lucky early beneficiaries of CalAIM.

His mother credits the trust she established with community health workers, who spent many hours over multiple visits to teach her how to control her son's asthma.

"I used to love cleaning with bleach" but learned it can trigger breathing problems, Sandoval said.

Since she implemented the health workers' recommendations, Sandoval has been able to let Jorge sleep alone at night for the first time in four years.

"Having this program and all the things available is amazing," said Sandoval, as she pointed to the dirty dust cup in her new vacuum cleaner. "Now my son doesn't have as many asthma attacks and he can run around and be a normal kid."

This article was produced by KFF Health News, a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF . KFF Health News is the publisher of California Healthline , an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation .

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  1. Glossary of Essay Terms

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    essay, an analytic, interpretative, or critical literary composition usually much shorter and less systematic and formal than a dissertation or thesis and usually dealing with its subject from a limited and often personal point of view. Some early treatises—such as those of Cicero on the pleasantness of old age or on the art of "divination ...

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  28. Definition of Antisemitism Is the Subject of Bitter Debate

    The definition itself is vague and uncontroversial, stating that antisemitism is a "certain perception of Jews that may be expressed as hatred" toward them. But the I.H.R.A. also includes with ...

  29. Anti-Defamation League ramps up lobbying to promote controversial

    The IHRA definition includes examples of antisemitism that are considered by free speech advocates to be protected by the first amendment, such as labeling Israel a racist state, questioning its ...

  30. California's $12 billion Medicaid experiment stretches the definition

    The state covers basic services for vulnerable residents, including things like air purifiers for kids with asthma. But nonprofits offering the services struggle to work within the health care system.