Unit 02: What It Means to You – The Definition Essay

Dictionary page with the word "discrimination" highlighted

“What does it all mean?”

That’s a good question! So many words and concepts mean different things to different people. Sometimes there are multiple interpretations of a word in English. The meaning depends a lot on context, that is to say, how it’s used or the situation in which it’s used. A dictionary is a good place to start, but there are many more interesting and effective ways to explain a word or idea. In this unit, you will study different strategies for writing a definition, including useful grammar and composition skills that help your readers understand what you mean.

To begin, watch this short video in which Shaun Macleod introduces the idea of definition.


Key academic vocabulary in this unit

  • achieve /əˈtʃiv/ verb – to succeed in what you planned to do; to reach your goal
  • analysis /əˈnæləsɪs/ noun – the process of studying or examining something in detail in order to understand it better
  • element /ˈelɪmənt/ noun – an important basic part of something complicated; a piece of something larger
  • foundation /faʊnˈdeɪʃ(ə)n/ noun – the most basic part of something that supports other things
  • maintain /meɪnˈteɪn/ verb – to keep something going or to keep it the same; to continue something
  • major /ˈmeɪdʒər/  adjective – important, primary, large
  • pursue /pərˈsu/ verb  – to go after something, to try to get it, to follow a course of action to obtain something
  • specific /spəˈsɪfɪk/ adjective – exact and detailed, not vague or general
  • strategy /ˈstrætədʒi/ noun – a thoughtful plan or method for achieving something 
  • thesis /ˈθisɪsnoun  – the main idea or argument about an issue




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