el·e·men·tal | \ˌe-lə-ˈmen-tᵊl \

Definition of elemental 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of, relating to, or being an element specifically : existing as an uncombined chemical element

b(1) : of, relating to, or being the basic or essential constituent of something : fundamental elemental biological needs

(2) : simple, uncomplicated elemental food

c : of, relating to, or dealing with the rudiments of something : elementary taught elemental crafts to the children

d : forming an integral part : inherent an elemental sense of rhythm

2 : of, relating to, or resembling a great force of nature the rains come with elemental violence elemental passions


plural elementals

Definition of elemental (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a supernatural being : spirit "It's a heritage. My mother was a witch and her mother was a witch. My specialty is (prophetic) dreaming. We believe elementals do exist," said Lady L …— D. L. Stephenson

2 : an elementary part or principle usually plural All objects consist of smaller objects. … Lamps, bicycles, and houses are compound objects made of constituent parts, or elementals.— Alan L. LaityThese two epistemologies exist in distinct dimensions: science struggles to discover the elementals of our material existence through empiricism, and theology strives to describe the universality of our … existence through faith.— Jack Hitt

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Other Words from elemental


elementally \ˌe-lə-ˈmen-tᵊl-ē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for elemental

Synonyms: Adjective

basal, basic, beginning, elementary, essential, fundamental, introductory, rudimentary, underlying

Antonyms: Adjective


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Examples of elemental in a Sentence


an elemental difference between the two Their elemental passion led to tragedy. the elemental power of the storm an elemental analysis of the solution
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Zorn’s saxophone and Laswell’s bass are elemental forces — like lightning and thunder — visceral, tangible and looking to touch a nerve. Joshua Zucker, SFChronicle.com, "John Zorn and Bill Laswell make rare duo appearance at the Chapel," 11 July 2018 In Infinity War, they are referred to as elemental crystals. Gary Thompson, Philly.com, "What are the infinity stones that drive the plot of 'Avengers: Infinity War'?," 25 Apr. 2018 In the context of North Korea and the United States — and the fears some felt about coming to these Olympics, given the political situation that envelops them — the symbolism of the Olympic opening felt not only slick but downright elemental. USA TODAY, "At Olympics, fiery optics both entertaining and symbolic," 9 Feb. 2018 Everyone’s motivation for participating in the crime, outside of the chance to make some money, is basically unknown, but Layton’s script keeps hinting at something darker and more elemental driving them, particularly Lipka. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Slick but Empty True Crime of American Animals," 1 June 2018 But for the husband-and-wife team of Belgian film director Jaco Van Dormael and renowned choreographer Michele Anne De May, our hands may be the body’s most elemental form of expression. Christopher Wallenberg, BostonGlobe.com, "In ‘Cold Blood,’ sleight of hand creates a different kind of magic," 24 May 2018 In the world of Atrias, certain folks with elemental magic can control one aspect of nature (fire, water, earth, etc.). Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "Four hot novels for teens to dive into this summer vacation," 3 July 2018 And while other elemental aspects of the tradition, involving fire, seems now secondary, there is still a tie to roses. Roger Catlin, Smithsonian, "The Point of Armenia’s Splashy Holiday is Getting Wet," 3 July 2018 Designed as a kit of parts that can be downloaded, milled, then assembled, open source homes are, by their very nature, boiled down to their most elemental pieces. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "This modular prefab home is powered by the sun," 28 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'elemental.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of elemental


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1877, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for elemental

Last Updated

23 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for elemental

The first known use of elemental was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for elemental



English Language Learners Definition of elemental

: basic and important

: having the power of a force of nature

: of or relating to a chemical element


el·e·men·tal | \ˌel-ə-ˈment-ᵊl \

Medical Definition of elemental 

: of, relating to, or being an element specifically : existing as an uncombined chemical element

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Comments on elemental

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lying above or upon

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