Academic Tips: 5 Popular Definition Essay Topics

As soon as instructors announce essays, most students begin to groan and complain. Despite their disgruntled attitudes about essays, there is one essay that ends up being much more interesting that students anticipated: the definition essay. In a typical definition essay, students are asked to investigate how the definition of a particular word has changed over time. Once students begin to realize how interesting the history of language is, they are hooked and want to know more.

When you have been assigned a definition essay and you are looking for a topic, these are a few popular options:

  1. Any type of slang. Words that have become slang tend to have fascinating histories. Students enjoy learning about the development of those words and how they became our favorite words. Students often enjoy looking at slang terms from early decades, especially from the 1920s and 1970s when slang words were especially unique. Some students prefer to focus on slang from certain geographic areas, like the way that surfers from California speak or the way that people from Seattle spoke in the 1990s during the Grunge era.
  2. Swear words. Nothing fascinates a student more than learning how those four-letter words became so bad. If you are going to write about these words, be sure to get permission before you start your paper. Some instructors might be offended by a paper about a swear word. While current swear words are interesting, students can always focus on other derogatory words from other centuries and how those words fell into and out of favor.
  3. Archaic words. Old fashioned words or words that have practically disappeared from the English language make for interesting papers, especially following the path the word on its way toward extinction. Students who are interested in Shakespeare or authors from other early periods offer words that could be studied.
  4. Words with strong connotations. The English language is full of words with overly positive and extremely negative connotations. Words that we use to categorize people tend to have the most polarizing connotations that can be interesting to discuss in an essay.
  5. Idioms. Many of our idioms come from the sports world, which has an interestingly collection of terminology, too. Even though idioms involve more than one word, they can still be interesting to follow through history to see how the meanings of those words have changed throughout time.